With the success of the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the move to increase the visibility of hockey being played in its—mostly—natural element with the addition of the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, many have wondered when the Colorado Avalanche will see it’s day in the sun (or under the moon).
If Avalanche president and governor Josh Kroenke has his way, it could be as soon as next season. Kroenke admitted Tuesday during a press conference previewing the upcoming season that he has been in talks with the league to land an outdoor event as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the team moving to Denver and winning the first of two Stanley Cups during the 1995-96 season.
“We have been working hard with the league and pushing the league quite hard to obtain an outdoor game. And we hope to get a positive answer on that in the very near future,” said Kroenke on Tuesday. “Just wanted to let our fans know that that’s something that could be a distinct possibility for us, especially coinciding with the 20-year anniversary. We think it would be great.”
As soon as the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic became a recurring event, fans and pundits alike began dissecting every stadium in Colorado, debating merits and drawbacks for each location, were it to host such an extravaganza. While nothing is set yet—Kroenke is still awaiting a response—the effort to get an outdoor game in the state is very real.
“We’re still talking and want to keep our options open, but I’ve had different conversations, stemming as recently as the board of governors meeting last week in New York,” Kroenke elaborated when asked about any specific locale to hold the outdoor contest. “We’re hopeful to have clarification on it very soon, but we feel very optimistic about our chances.
“While I think we’d love to get a Winter Classic, we’d be okay with either.”
The sudden shift towards bringing such an event to the organization is due in part to the climate of Denver and the surrounding Rocky Mountains, which would serve as a picturesque backdrop for the always popular affair. It also has to do with the fact that the Avalanche are trending upwards again thanks to an incredible 2013-14 season and a taste of the playoffs.
“I think the league recognized us just simply based on our success we had last year. We were kind of a resurgent club. We have a proud history that was started by these two guys,” said Kroenke, motioning to head coach Patrick Roy and executive vice president and general Manager Joe Sakic beside him, “and they’re trying to recapture some of that imagination that was once here.”
“As far as talks with the league, I can’t go into too much detail because we don’t have any confirmation yet, but I think in a nutshell the league recognizes that Denver could be a natural fit for an outdoor game at some point in time. Hopefully sooner rather than later. As our hockey club stands, I think it makes sense to have our first one during the 20-year anniversary of the club coming to Colorado.”
Speculation for who the Avs would play is already running rampant, but with legends like Sakic and Roy back with the organization, there’s one choice that everyone expects.
“I don’t know who it will be, but if they ask my recommendation I could come up with one,” joked Sakic, alluding to his team’s past rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings. “There’s obviously a couple teams that would be a perfect fit here.”
Last season’s Bridgstone NHL Winter Classic featured a historic shootout finish between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs inside Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., while 105,491 fans cheered on in a rumbling chorus. There was cold, there was snow and there was history being made.
This year’s Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will be played one New Year’s Day at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., pitting the Chicago Blackhawks against the Washington Capitals.
The Coors Light NHL Stadium Series was a resounding success during it’s trial run last season, with seven teams playing four separate games—two at Yankee Stadium in New York City, one at Soldier Field in Chicago and one at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles—in three different cities. This year will have just one Coors Light NHL Stadium Series contest, played between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 21.