|It was another memorable Winter Classic in Ann Arbor today. Photo: Rick Osentoski/USA Today|
Back in September, the league announced that the Washington Capitals would be receiving the 2015 Winter Classic. They had been rumored to have been promised a outdoor game after appearing in the 2011 WC in Pittsburgh, and obviously, the league came through on that promise.
Following the announcement of the 2015 game, Craig Leipold issued the following statement, "We believe we have the right players, the right venue and certainly the right fans to ensure a successful Winter Classic. We will work hard to host the 2016 Winter Classic."
Craig Leipold may be the hardest working owner in all the league when it comes to getting a Winter Classic bid, but when all is said and done, it comes down to Gary Bettman and where he wants the game to be at.
Since its inception in January of 2008, the Winter Classic has become the diamond on the NHL's calendar in the regular season. It has been hosted in Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and today in Ann Arbor. All have been magnificent games, giving the NHL great boosts in ratings and revenues.
The league will only hand out a Winter Classic to a team that has star power and continuously wins games, something the Wild have been lacking the past half decade. They want the best players and the best teams on its brightest stage because it cranks up those ratings and revenues. They will not hand over the keys to its greatest event, unless the team can start winning more consistently (and in case you forgot, the Wild are currently holders of a six game losing streak).
Minnesota will have to end its losing ways soon if they wish to land a game before the year 2020. Toronto is rumored to be the landing spot for the 2017 game, and major cities like New York, Denver, and St. Louis are going to be knocking on the NHL's door to host the game as well. Its also theoretically possible that cities that have hosted the event once already could be inquiring about a return due of the inception of the NHL Stadium Series, which gives more teams a chance to hose an outdoor game (Leipold is more in favor of landing the Winter Classic than settling for a Stadium Series game).
Should the Wild be fortunate enough to land the event, it will be hosted either at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus (which is hosting an outdoor hockey game on the 17th of January between the Gophers and Ohio State Buckeyes) or at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. But we are still a long ways from having that debate.
Hope the Wild can land the 2016 Winter Classic. If they don't, it could be a long while before they get another chance at the event.
To make you feel slightly better, here is a tweet from ESPN SportsCenter anchor/hockey guy John Buccigross:
Every year the state Minnesota doesn't get a Winter Classic the more the NHL looks like a bunch of empty suits with no soul. Joke/Travesty.
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) January 1, 2014
Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell