June 18, 2009
It's gotten to the be such a foregone conclusion that the debate has now shifted to whom the Bruins' opponent will be, as both the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers are reportedly in the mix.
Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post tracked down NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in Vegas during a media scrum, and the Commish said there's no news in the Capitals' steroid investigation (remember that?) or when it comes to the 2010 Classic. Here's Bettman:
There have been reports suggesting that the Bruins are set to host the Caps on Jan. 1 at Fenway Park. Bettman wouldn't confirm the reports, but the word out here is that Boston's opponent hasn't been confirmed and that discussions within the league are continuing. I'm also hearing the Caps haven't been told whether they're in or out. Yet.
"I'm not in a position to make any announcements right now," Bettman said. "I know there are a lot of rumors that are floating about. But at this point in time I'm going to leave them rumors. There are a lot of places that would be cool to have it in. Boston is a great city, but we have lots of great cities that would like to have the Winter Classic. I'm not ruling in or out anything."
Keep in mind that although the Wrigley Field Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks was widely reported during the early summer, it took the NHL until mid-July to officially confirm it. Which is the smart thing to do, because then the news is outside the Awards, Draft and free-agency cycles for hockey ... and in the middle of the doldrums for most of the sports media. It'll play huge.
As for the opponent: It's the right time for the Capitals in the Classic. Traditionalists would likely rather see another Original Six team, like the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens. But thinking about the Classic as an annual event, you'd still have Flyers/Pittsburgh Penguins at, say, Penn State; you'd have an all-Canadian Classic that is going to have to happen at some point in Montreal; and you'd save the New York Rangers for their inevitable game at Yankee Stadium.
Ovechkin vs. The Green Monster. If you're trying to top the beautiful snow globe of the Buffalo Classic and the mythic kick of the Wings and Hawks in Wrigley, that's your best option.