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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
QOTW answers: Boston, N.Y. your top picks for next Classic


CHICAGO -- The Winter Classic is obviously a hit with the ESPN.com puckheads.

Huge response to our Question of the Week: Where would you want to see next season's outdoor game held, or is it time to give it a pass for a year or two?

I can tell you from talking to an NHL source that there really isn't a favorite right now for next season and that a lot of conversations are still to be had.

Let's take a look at what the readers want:


bigdoog1283: Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. Penguins versus Flyers. One of the greatest rivalries in hockey with 110,000 fans in the middle of the state. The Battle for PA.

mccaslin: Penguins against Flyers at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. Almost halfway between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, this game would attract a large number of Penguins and Flyers fans, not to mention all the Penn State students who stay in town over the holiday break. Plus, the NHL would not have to worry about the stadium being used any time near the Jan. 1 date, and could begin preparations any time after the Penn State football season ended.

dpeltier: The governor of Pennsylvania has been asking for a Flyers-Penguins game at Penn State's stadium, Beaver Stadium. The stadium has a capacity of 107,000. Give one end zone and one sideline of seats each to the Flyers and the Penguins. Geographically, Penn State is approximately halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It also makes sense 'cause they are two of the better and most popular teams at the moment. Also, the average New Year's Day temperature is 27 degrees, which helps 'cause it probably couldn't work in Philadelphia with an average of 42 degrees and Pittsburgh's average of 38 degrees.

My take: This is definitely a possibility, if not next season, then sometime in the next few years. The Flyers have made it clear to the NHL that they want this to happen, and eventually they will get their way. Having the Penguins involved again two years after their game against Buffalo hurts the cause if this is the matchup the Flyers insist upon. The NHL and NHL Players' Association want to move the Winter Classic around and involve as many teams as possible. Still, the league has an outdoor game at Beaver Stadium on its radar. No question.


twsmd78: I don't think the game will be in Montreal. The whole point of this is to market the game in the U.S. Hockey does not need to be marketed in Canada. It's already the No. 1 sport. In the U.S., it's behind baseball, football and basketball. The game will most likely be in the U.S. 99 percent sure.

My take: This is true. It pains me as a proud Canadian, but the reality is the league needs to use the Winter Classic to bring in U.S. viewers and corporate sponsors. The six Canadian clubs sell out every game and don't need to grow their reach. Eventually, Toronto or Montreal may get into this mix, but I don't think it will be next season, at least.


ice32x: Without question, the new Yankee Stadium. There was much talk about having a Rangers/Islanders game at the old stadium for this Winter Classic, and as a New Yorker, I am highly disappointed it is not being held here. Though it hurts me to say it, understandably, the Islanders may not draw much attention. Rangers versus Devils/Flyers would be an intense rivalry, but why not pit New York versus Boston? Allow this legendary rivalry of New York and Boston to cross into the hockey world. Yankees/Red Sox. Giants/Patriots. Rangers/Bruins. Now, if only the Knicks could pick up their game ... or perhaps King James?

My take: The old Yankee Stadium was the favorite for this year's game, way ahead of Chicago, but logistical problems broke down the momentum with New York. The Blackhawks, through team president John McDonough, flew in at the 11th hour and nabbed it from New York. Rest assured, the NHL definitely wants to hold a game in America's biggest city one day. You can count on that. A game at the new Yankee Stadium is appealing on many fronts and is certainly on the radar.


dupree923: They need to continue the Winter Classic next year with an Original Six matchup in Boston at Fenway with the Bruins facing off against Montreal. One of the greatest rivalries in hockey, as exhibited by the great seven-game series last playoffs.

GeoffCalver: Boston. Montreal. There is such an incredible, storied rivalry between these two teams, and nothing would be greater than to watch les bleus, blancs et rouges playing against the Bruins at Fenway Park. The Green Monster behind them, the Prudential Center towering in the distance. Stunning!

HernonM95: Fenway Park. San Jose or Montreal versus the Bruins. Imagine the story line with Thornton coming to Boston or having the hated rivals Canadiens in town. Fenway is the most historic stadium in sports. ... The climate is suitable at this time of the year. ... Boston fans are everywhere -- just look at how the Sox fans travel. Fenway has to be the next pick.

SoXRed0784: Many people seem to be hoping for a Bruins-Canadiens game at Fenway -- love the idea and the matchup, but as a fan who would be planning to attend the game if held in the Boston area, I personally would rather attend the game at Gillette. Sure, Gillette doesn't have the history, etc. of Fenway, but Fenway is not an ideal place to watch a hockey game. ... Not sure how exactly they would set the rink up, but regardless, there are going to be sections where the seats will be terrible. Canadiens fans travel well, and if the tickets are priced correctly, there should not be any problem selling Gillette out. Also, the logistics of pulling this off will be much easier at Gillette with the turf field, etc. If I were to watch it on TV, would rather it be at Fenway.

My take: By far, the most popular idea from our readers was Fenway Park with the Bruins hosting the Canadiens. It kind of surprised me that the Habs got more love than the Rangers as a fit for the game, but I guess that shows you that the Boston-N.Y. rivalry is more about baseball, and hockey fans in Beantown are savvy enough to list Montreal as their top rival, not the Rangers. Again, not sure the NHL wants a Canadian team involved at this point, but the Original Six rivalry and at either Fenway or Gillette would be very compelling, especially when you consider that this season's game is in a reborn Original Six market (Chicago) and Boston would represent the same opportunity. However, as our colleague Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe pointed out to us Wednesday, Fenway Park will undergo a series of winter renovations in the next two or three years, so it may not be available. He wondered whether Harvard Stadium wouldn't be a better option.


amcaswell: The new Twins Stadium (Target Field) would be a great place for Minnesota to host the Winter Classic, that or the Gophers' football stadium (TCF Bank Stadium). For it to be at the Twins' stadium, it would have to wait a couple of years, which would give the Wild enough time to put together a more offensively potent squad. A Blackhawks versus Wild game would be a great game.

pkinne: This is too obvious: TCF Bank Stadium on the lovely campus of the University of Minnesota! Nowhere outside Canada makes more sense than holding this event in the Twin Cities, and next year we will have just the place to do it. Wild versus Stars, outside, as part of Hockey Day In Minnesota. Now that's classic!

My take: Minnesota is indeed the State of Hockey, but right now, the Wild can't bid on a Winter Classic. "Right now, there is no outdoor facility," Wild GM Doug Risebrough told ESPN.com in an e-mail. "The present football and baseball facility is indoors. That will change in the next couple of years with the Gopher and Twins stadiums." This is a great, great hockey market that one year, but not soon, will get its crack at a Winter Classic.


Ih8Idiots: 1) I think the league will have to include Ovechkin in the next Winter Classic, especially if he's the league MVP yet again. 2) I think it will feature teams that have not yet played an outdoor regular-season game. 3) I think the host city will have to have a very high probability of cold weather. 4) I think it will most likely again be an intraconference game. (If not, I like Washington at Minnesota.) With that in mind, I present to you my three most probable 2010 Winter Classic matchups:
1) Washington @ NYR
2) Washington @ Boston
3) Washington @ Toronto

My take: I went straight to the source on this one, asking Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis how he felt about the Winter Classic. "We would love to play in one AND/OR host one -- yes! It is up to NHL. It is their call, of course," Leonsis wrote in an e-mail to ESPN.com.

Just as it was a slam dunk idea to have Sidney Crosby involved in the first Winter Classic, it's a no-brainer to have Alex Ovechkin showcased in one. He's also the kind of guy who would really buy in and love the event. Perhaps it'll be a road game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Caps involved within the next two or three years.


Nellyj7585: The weather for an outdoor game in Denver would be fantastic, which would be real appealing for the NHL, plus the city itself is fantastic. Avs-Wings has become a great rivalry over the years, and with players such as Paul Stastny, Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk representing the Winter Classic who could ask for anything better? Invesco Field at Mile High is also a spectacular venue. If the NHL doesn't do an outdoor game there, I think the NCAA should take a look for a University of Denver-Colorado College game for next season.

My take: The Colorado Avalanche are tremendously interested in hosting a Winter Classic. They've told the league as much in no uncertain terms. Right now, their biggest knock is the team isn't that good. But otherwise, it is a great market and has good winter weather to pull it off.


jaheeres: I think LP Field in Nashville. The Predators are probably not the best team, but with their showing in the 2008 playoffs against the Red Wings, [they] could prove a good matchup against either the Wings or Blackhawks. Besides, who wouldn't want to see country musicians singing on ice, right? That or some guy in an Elvis suit skating around singing, "Blue Suede Skates," er, shoes.

My take: Ah ... no.


scott76: Put it in Lake Placid, and have Ovechkin versus Crosby. Russia versus the U.S. Market the heck out of that.

My take: Hey, Crosby is from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.


tommy4633: I live in Buffalo, N.Y., and I watched the Winter Classic when it was here last year. I think that if the NHL has a Winter Classic every year, they will lose a lot of fans on this particular day because there is only so much you can do on and around the ice rink that is different from the previous year. Fans won't want to watch it because it will be the same old thing year after year. The Winter Classic in Buffalo will never be topped because it was the very first outdoor game in the United States.

My take: This is a realistic risk. Just because last season's game was a huge hit, it doesn't mean the Winter Classic will continue to bring in huge ratings. There's very much the possibility of the novelty wearing off. For this reason alone, I was hoping the league would have played this game every two years to keep the interest fresh. Would the Olympics be as compelling if they were held every year? Still, I can tell you from being in Chicago right now that the buzz is tremendous. So perhaps I'll be proven wrong in the long run. We'll see.

Until then, drop the puck!