Time to Expand Hockey’s Winter Classic

By Dave Bruning

The Winter Classic outdoor hockey games have been a smashing success.  Ringing in the New Year with an outdoor hockey game is a truly unique way to light the lamp, hockey pun intended!  The games have been so successful it’s hard to believe NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has anything to do with them!  Here’s a great idea Gary:  Bring the Winter Classic to the winter wonderland that is Colorado!

The Winter Classic has primarily featured the NHL’s Original 6 teams: Boston, Detroit, Chicago, New York, Toronto and Montreal.  This was a wise way to test the staying power of outdoor hockey.  The passionate fan bases of these teams made the initial games no brainers.

The Winter Classic for 2016 has already been announced: Montreal at Boston.  I believe the NHL should send the Detroit Red Wings to play the Colorado Avalanche in Denver for the 2017 Winter Classic.  These two teams have a storied and intense rivalry highlighted by the unforgettable brawl of 1997.  The 20-year anniversary of that incredible hockey game could be a featured part of the weekend’s festivities.

The Avalanche is coached by Patrick Roy, goaltender for the Avs in that epic 1997 game.  He famously fought Mike Vernon at center ice that night.  Joe Sakic was busy being Super Joe Sakic in 1997 and is now President of the Colorado Avalanche.  The NHL could also find a creative way to include the city of Quebec, the previous home of the Avalanche.  Detroit’s hockey history speaks for itself.

Here’s another idea Gary: rebroadcast that 1997 classic game and the 2017 Winter Classic back-to-back.  Players and coaches from both teams could be brought in to reflect back on the rivalry and that game in particular.  It’s not often hockey can grab the spotlight from the other major sports; this is a wonderful opportunity to do so.

My understanding is it is better to use a baseball field than a football field to set up an outdoor rink.  The primary reason is baseball fields are flatter and don’t have the crown that football fields do.  Coors Field is ideal.  It is a newer stadium with tremendous lines of sight and plenty of room to set up all the extracurricular activities for the fans to experience.

The vibrant downtown scene of Denver is a slap shot away from Coors Field.  Did I mention the wonderful skiing and snowboarding in Colorado?  Hockey fans from all over the country would be making Winter Classic vacation plans even if they couldn’t get a ticket to the game.

I’m full of great ideas!  Why not include a college hockey game between the University of Denver and Colorado College to further spice up the weekend.  The animosity between these two schools is legendary.  Why not take advantage of the opportunity to grow hockey and give fans a taste of this spirited rivalry?  A college game could become a permanent feature of the Winter Classic.

Hockey hotbeds have been spoiled by the Winter Classic.  It’s time to give Colorado a chance, and 2017 is the year to do it.  Drop the puck on a Colorado Winter Classic, Gary.  Hockey pun definitely intended!

 

 

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