January 14, 2009
There's something rather wonderful about the NHL actually exhibiting some semblance of a pimp hand for once, rather than getting smacked around by television or advertisers. The success of the Winter Classic has given the League some swagger, which in turn has enabled the NHL to start expanding its horizons for its New Year's Day event.
Like bringing an outdoor hockey game to such wintery locales as Las Vegas or Pasadena, for example.
NHL COO John Collins spoke with Bloomberg News about future editions of the Winter Classic, and many of the usual suspects were identified: Boston, New York, Minnesota, Penn State, Detroit and Washington, DC. But Collins indicated that Vegas and the Rose Bowl are under consideration:
NHL representatives recently visited Las Vegas in part to gauge the feasibility of staging a Jan. 1 game on Las Vegas Boulevard South, the area known as "the Strip," Collins said.
The NHL last played in Las Vegas in September 1991. The Rangers and Los Angeles Kings played an exhibition game on an outdoor rink in 85-degeee temperatures at Caesars Palace in front of 13,000 fans and a swarm of flying insects.
A Jan. 1 date would likely make for better playing conditions. Prior to this year's game, the NHL also spent more than $1 million on a custom-made refrigeration truck and other equipment, allowing for better control of the ice surface. "The new rink opens up a lot of opportunities," Collins said. "We might even be able to have a night game out at the Rose Bowl."
Wow. Vegas is what it is -- and the NHL's consideration of Sin City for a Winter Classic and Awards Show destination speaks volumes about its place in the expansion/relocation pecking order, doesn't it
Kansas City and Hamilton? -- but the Rose Bowl could be epic. We're talking about a way to get West Coast teams in the U.S. involved, like the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings. We're talking about the potential for over 92,500 fans watching an outdoor hockey game.
But as Collins said, we'd also be talking about "a night game out at the Rose Bowl." How does that mesh with the current Winter Classic tradition of Eastern Time Zone afternoon games?
Now, this could just be a case in which Bloomberg's reporter seized on the most outlandish brainstorms from Collins and led with them. Because NHL.com's coverage of the story leaves out references to either Las Vegas or the Rose Bowl.
Like we said in our coverage of the KHL All-Star Game from Red Square, the NHL needs to shake up the stadium/ballpark model sooner rather than later.
Yeah, the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium or the Boston Bruins at Fenway are an easy sell; and the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the Philadelphia Flyers at Penn State could be professional sports' first televised regular season game/prison riot. But something like Vegas, the Rose Bowl or The Mall in DC will provide not only instant buzz in the mainstream and memorable vistas for viewers, but a Winter Classic palette-cleanser in between stadium games.
Oh, and if anyone still doubts the success of the Winter Classic or thinks it's a passing fad, one more note from Bloomberg's story:
The NHL likely will begin requiring cities interested in hosting the game to bid for it, a process used for the NFL’s annual Super Bowl. The league likely will begin scheduling the games two years in advance as well to allow for better marketing by the league and host city, Collins said.