Monday, January 2, 2012

Minnesota and the Winter Classic

Happy New Year everyone. I took a little hiatus from here to relax and enjoy the holidays. Too bad the Wild one just once during that time. Also as you can see, I changed up the blog design on here. Hopefully you all enjoy this than the last background (It really annoyed me in the end). Now on to business...

Today, the Flyers and Rangers partake in perhaps the NHL's biggest event, the Winter Classic. They play it in Citizens Bank Park (Home of MLB's Philadelphia Phillies) in the city of brotherly love. It is the fifth consecutive year, the NHL has put this event on ('08 in Buffalo, '09 in Chicago, '10 in Boston, and '11 in Pittsburgh). And for everyone of those years, Minnesotans (including myself) have asked: When does the State of Hockey get its chance to host the league's premier event?

Since the event's inception, the game has been played between two of the league's premier teams, and in one of the league's premier US markets. So first and foremost, Minnesota has to start putting up more wins every season. Something that appears to be trending in the right direction, under rookie head coach Mike Yeo. Also, the league likes to have teams in there with some big names players on the teams, something the Wild is lacking (Mikko Koivu should be put in the big name discussion; Dany Heatley was a big name, but lack of production is killing that). Its not a necessity, but it certainly helps when the NHL decides on which two teams get to play every year. And then finally, this market certainly supports NHL hockey, so securing a WC after the team starts winning should be no problem.

So realistically, if the Wild continue to improve at the way they are under Yeo, when can Minnesota expect the NHL to come calling for the Winter Classic? As I mentioned earlier on twitter today, you should expect Detroit to host the WC in 2013. They are one of the league's most storied franchises, and they have been one of the most consistent teams over the last two decades. Its pretty much a lock for them next year. Then I took a guess that in 2014, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals will host the WC. The Caps were promised a WC "soon" following their appearance in last year's WC against Pittsburgh. But, the way the Caps have gone down hill this year is a cause for concern, but I'm sure by '14 they will have righted the ship. So that leaves 2015 up for grabs for the WC. And I'm sure Craig Leipold will do everything he can to get that game here, but I'm sure he will have to go up against the city of New York because they have not hosted a WC yet. So given the league's east coast bias in this event, look for the Rangers to host the 2015 WC.

By the time the 2015-16 NHL season comes around, you should expect the State of Hockey to get its chance to host the Winter Classic. Do I believe we should wait that long, absolutely not. But as I mentioned before, the league has seen just one team from the central time zone play in this event (Chicago '09), and I don't expect that to change any time soon (Unless the Wild acquire one of the league's best players and become a top 5 team next year...but don't bet on that).

The league has acknowledged Minnesota as a future site for this event. They always come away impressed when a big event comes to the State of Hockey (See: '04 ASG, '11 Draft). But, our love of this game will not secure the league's best event...its going to have to come from our on ice product. And that's the cold truth. So let's hope we can continue to win. Or else we may see a later WC here than 2016.

UPDATE (1/3): Today had a story on where the Winter Classic will go from here. There are a lot of similarities to this post.

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