April 09, 2009
The NHL is 2-for-2 in staging the Winter Classic, its signature outdoor event on New Year's Day. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres played in a picturesque snow-globe to a massive audience at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the 2008 edition; back in January, the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks pulled strong ratings and major buzz with their game at Wrigley Field.
Three potential sites for the next edition have been tossed around for months: Fenway Park, the new Yankee Stadium (the previous incarnation just missed hosting the 2009 edition) and Penn State University.
Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa write The Inside Track column for the Boston Herald, which offers a gossipy society page take on Boston sports. According to their story this morning, they hear the NHL "has given its blessing to a 2010 New Year's Day game in the Hub of Hockey, choosing Boston over New York and Philadelphia."
(UPDATE 3:15 p.m. EST: The Boston Globe has confirmed through its sources that the 2010 Classic will be at Fenway, and hears that the opponents could be either the Philadelphia Flyers or Washington Capitals. The NHL claims no decision has been made, and that Fenway is one of "a variety of options.")
From the Herald, here's the scoop on a Fenway Classic, complete with an artist's rendering of the stadium with a rink:
League reps had visited all three cities and, in Boston, looked at both Fenway and Gillette Stadium. However, scheduling around any Patriots [team stats] post-season play was a tricky proposition, we're told, and ultimately Fenway got the nod. Word is, John Henry & Co. tried to get the hockey game that went to Wrigley Field in Chicago earlier this year.
According to earlier reports, the Bruins most likely opponent would be would either the Canadiens or the Rangers, but our sources say the visiting team hasn't been chosen yet. Word is, the NHL ice gods need just 10 days of cooperative (read: freezing) weather to install a professional sheet of ice at Fenway then the puck can drop.
The NHL can't go wrong with either Yankee Stadium or Fenway for the next edition of the Classic; although one wonders if a game in Boston would afford the League a chance to get either the Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs involved in a signature event that's been an all-U.S. team affair to this point. In fact, the Rangers could be kept out of a Fenway game so the League can hold a Classic in New York City featuring the Blueshirts in the following season or two.
Strong rumors about the 2009 Winter Classic's location didn't solidify until late May 2008, and the formal announcement wasn't until July. So while this news is logically sound, it may not be concrete; in fact, it wouldn't be stunning to see the NHL come out and deny this quickly. The "spy report" that the Classic could come to Fenway because "the Red Sox were mad that they were one-upped this year" rings way too baseball-centric to be true; and the Bronx was a leading contender just a few months ago.
But the bottom line remains: Do hockey fans want to see a Classic at Fenway or Yankee Stadium in 2010? And if it's in Beantown, which famous-for-hockey singer will perform "Sweet Caroline"?
H/T to Stanley Cup of Chowder for the story.