The NHL hit a home run with their most recent ‘Winter Classic’. Over 105,000 people attended the outdoor game in Ann Arbor on January 1. The league deserves full marks for a great event. My only criticism was that the TV broadcast failed to translate the enormity of the event. Also with a rink in the middle of a football field, there appeared a limited sense of intimacy.
I’m very curious how the upcoming games at Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field and BC Place in Vancouver will go.
The enemy of taking ice outside is not temperature but rain. If we get dry days the games should go well. The question many have is, has the NHL bitten off more that it can chew? The league has gone from a singular ‘Winter Classic’, to multiple games in multiple markets. Those questions will be answered shortly after the final game on March 2nd in Vancouver.
Is there a better way, an opportunity?
Looking into my crystal ball, I can envision a day..…
…when the NHL will own and operate a true, custom built, outdoor hockey stadium. It would be built on the U.S.-Canadian border just north of International Falls, Minnesota. This location would all but guarantee sub-freezing weather from December to March. It would have a 40,000 to 50,000 capacity. The stands would begin immediately at the boards and would have steep series of rows much like most of the indoor arenas in the NHL. Rows would be fairly steep allowing for both a large audience and an intimate view. The design would be a 270 degree bowl configuration. The stadium would be positioned right against scenic lake with ancient pine trees. The vast majority of fans and TV broadcasts would enjoy a breath-taking scenic/iconic winter view.
When the weather allows the lake would be a staging area for a series of outdoor, natural shinny rinks. NHL fans and amateur players, young and old players would come from around the world for not only NHL games, but also to play in amateur tournaments. College, minor league, and International games could also be played here also. Youth tournaments from across North America would be played there nearly every weekend.
The NHL would use their “Heritage Stadium” for the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. It also would be the site of a Christmas-season four-team tournament with a special trophy going to the tourney winning team. Winning the Xmas event would mean a return the next season. The NHL would also stage a series of regular season games there on a frequent basis. All 30 teams would play at least one game there every two years. Fans of NHL teams would have access all-inclusive travel packages which would include flights, game tickets, rooms at hockey-themed hotels, food, beverage and Heritage Stadium merchandise. NHL sponsors would have access to many of these events allowing them market their businesses.
The NHL would move the Hall-of-Fame from Toronto to join the USA Hockey Hall-of-Fame near International Falls. The border location would make this a hockey pilgrimage destination for fans/teams from both the US and Canada.
Much like skiing venues ‘Heritage Stadium’ would have a special ‘Hockey Village’. The village would boast Hockey-themed restaurants, hotels, shops and theaters. Indoors rinks would provide venues for summer-time hockey schools and training centers. NHL teams would frequently hold club training camps there.
After just a few years I believe this would be an amazing venue. It would be literally be the center of the hockey universe. It would quickly become a bucket list visit for fans from around the world.
It might sound like the pipe dream of a rink rat, but who knows?”