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Winter Classic

Blues proud to host 2017 Winter Classic

St. Louis to play Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 2; alumni game Dec. 31

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL formally announced Tuesday that the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium will take place on Jan. 2, 2017.

The game will be televised on NBC, Sportsnet and TVA Sports at 1 p.m. ET, and will launch the United States portion of the NHL Centennial Celebration. The Blues also will celebrate their 50th season in the League.

"What a great way to celebrate 100 years of NHL hockey, playing in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, which honors the westward expansion of the United States," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "The Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks will help commemorate the expansion westward of the National Hockey League. ... At the same time we will have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the incredible growth of hockey in St. Louis. There will be plenty of history to commemorate and lots of excitement to anticipate.

"For us to have an opportunity to come to a place that truly loves hockey, to play the game in an iconic venue where there are great sports fans, made this a very easy decision for us."

Video: Gary Bettman announces the 2017 Winter Classic

The Blues and the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball have been working in unison to unify the sports region, more so since the NFL's Rams left for Los Angeles in January.

"We have this wonderful relationship with the Blues," Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said. "It's really a relationship and that relationship has continued to grow. ... Now the Winter Classic is really a culmination of a partnership that I know will continue to grow in the years to come.

"... I'd like to thank Commissioner Bettman for making this possible. We've been bugging him for a number of years in ways subtle and not so subtle. Now we finally have this event."

The Blues will host their first outdoor regular-season game. The Blackhawks will participate in the Winter Classic for the third time (2009, 2015) and play in their fifth outdoor game. Chicago also played the Pittsburgh Penguins (2014) and Minnesota Wild (2016) in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.

"Landing the Winter Classic in St. Louis is a testament to the ownership group," St. Louis mayor Francis Slay said. "We are very proud to welcome the NHL Winter Classic to the city of St. Louis."

The Blues defeated the Blackhawks in seven games in the Western Conference First Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and advanced to the Western Conference Final before they were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in six games.

"If we're going to host the Winter Classic, it would only make sense that we would play the Chicago Blackhawks," Blues chairman Tom Stillman said. "When these teams meet, it's always an intense battle and we certainly saw that last spring. We would be thrilled to host the Winter Classic in any year, but it's really special to host it in our 50th anniversary season. Thank you, Blues fans. This would not be happening without your support over the years. We would not be hosting a Winter Classic in St. Louis without Gary Bettman's support.

"... There's a lot of 50th anniversary stuff, but this will be the centerpiece. It's huge. It's just possible we might be wearing the old uniforms."

Video: Colton Parayko on Winter Classic excitement

Busch Stadium also will host a game between Blues and Blackhawks alumni on Dec. 31. Hockey Hall of Fame members Brett Hull, Bernie Federko, Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger were announced as participants by Blues president and CEO Chris Zimmerman.

Also on New Year's Eve, Kid Rock will perform at Scottrade Center.

"I know St. Louis has been pining for an outdoor game, well deserved," said retired NHL forward Jamal Mayers, who played 10 seasons with the Blues. "I think it will be exciting for the entire St. Louis region. To think about how well both teams have been on the cusp of winning Stanley Cups in recent years, it kind of heightens that excitement.

"Anytime teams play in the playoffs, it kind of heightens that excitement even more. This is one of the few times that the game kind of pauses and the whole hockey world is watching. I know both sides will be excited to play this game."

Commissioner Bettman said in conjunction with the Blues' 50th anniversary and the Blackhawks' national appeal, it made for a natural fit to pit the two Central Division rivals against one another. Blackhawks CEO John McDonough said a third Winter Classic participation is "a dream. What an opportunity for both of these franchises to rise to yet another level.

"In 2009, our season-ticket base after that announcement went from 3,400 to 14,000," McDonough said. "That was a bit of an indication our franchise was on the way back. Everybody that is here today and in the viewing audience, on Jan. 2, you're going to experience something very, very special. It's an honor to play in this event."

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