Today's Winter Classic was pulled off without a hitch. There were no lengthy delays for ice repairs and seemingly no issues with the players' skating ability. The scene in Chicago was cozy and picturesque while the on-ice product provided an entertaining game featuring ten goals.Gary Bettman is already day-dreaming about the 2010 Winter Classic, which, in my opinion, should happen. Every January 1 after can be set for outdoor hockey as college football has strayed away from tradition and spread out their Bowl games. Where will the 2010 Winter Classic be and what teams will take part?
Let it be the Washington Capitals at the New York Rangers from Yankee Stadium, new or old.
There's no question next year's outdoor game will be at Yankee Stadium. The National Hockey League was very close to holding it there this season, but plumbing issues put the kibosh on things. With the new Yankee Stadium ready to open this spring and the old Stadium sitting empty right across the street, it's likely that the logistics could be given a green light for 2010.
Bettman and NBC would salivate at the opportunity to get part of their television rating for the game from the New York market and be able to feature their most marketable personality, Alexander Ovechkin. We've already had Sidney Crosby featured outdoors and it's now time for Ovechkin to bring his caveman-style and toothless smile into the living rooms of those casual fans tuning in for the spectacle of outdoor hockey.
As long as the NHL draws so-so television ratings, there's no chance that one or both teams featured in the Winter Classic will be Canadian. It'd be fantastic for a Canadians-Maple Leafs match-up from Olympic Stadium or Rogers Centre, but Bettman wants the all-important US television ratings. With future locales like Fenway Park, anywhere in Minnesota, Michigan Stadium, and Beaver Stadium at Penn State, the next handful of outdoor game hosts on New Year's Day are easily available.
With the Rangers, you get the large television ratings. With the Capitals, you get what the NHL did with the Blackhawks today: the young, up and coming team that is heading in the right direction after years of poor performance. Also, you'd get the superstar attraction in Alex Ovechkin.
There's no doubt that the Winter Classic is here to stay and while the league likely won't get perfect weather every year on January 1, it's worth the chance to continue the game and make it a tradition that the entire sports world looks forward to every year.