The NHL's annual Winter Classic has become an incredible event, successful in ways that the league could never have imagined. The spectacle surrounding the event has become bigger than the game itself and is reminiscent of the NFL's Super Bowl. The game on the ice hasn't disappointed either, with overtime thrillers being played in 2008 and 2010, in front of boisterous and enthusiastic crowds. With the 2010 Winter Classic in the books, the sights are now set on who will be playing in next season's game and where that game will be held. The Washington Capitals have already made their bid to host the game, and it's a logical choice for what has become a great hockey city and atmosphere.
Yet there has been rumblings that the Dallas Stars are making a push to be involved in a future Winter Classic, and there are hints that the team is even suggesting that Dallas host the game. Elliot Friedman from Hockey Night in Canada mentioned on Twitter that the Stars and the Dallas Cowboys have inquired about having a Winter Classic at Cowboys Stadium.
Yep. Cowboys Stadium.
Initially, there are major reservations that come to mind when a Winter Classic is mentioned in the same breath as Cowboys Stadium. The main one being the face that the big selling point is that the Classic is a 'return to when hockey was played outdoors, on a pond'. The sight of seeing two NHL teams braving frigid temperatures and the possibility of snow is compelling in and of itself; then you have the added atmosphere of playing the game is historically significant outdoor venues. Cowboys Stadium just doesn't have the appeal of a game held at Wrigley and Fenway.
Then the matter of the fans comes into play. For a game like this, you could potentially get 80,000 hockey fans into the Stadium. But where would these fans come from? Past games have featured rivalry matchups between two teams that are geographically close; Chicago vs. Detroit, Philly vs. Boston. Even Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh had some matchup appeal to it. Who would Dallas face that would promise to get opposing fans into the Stadium? San Jose? Anaheim? I think for a game this big, you'd see a good turnout of Dallas Stars fans but not enough to fill Cowboys Stadium. I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but the NHL is going to want to ensure a sellout for a game that big. And they're going to want a rowdy, loud crowd.
So if we want the Stars to play in a Winter Classic, who would be the best choice for an opponent?
Cole Jones of The Other 6 Seconds has already figured that out. In fact, he has a logo worked up already.
Cole's idea for the next Winter Classic instantly spread like wildfire around the internet, and was mentioned on several prominent hockey websites. And it seems his proposal has actually started to turn into what could be reality. What got the most attention was when he suggested the Stars wear their old North Stars jerseys, while the Wild wear their third jerseys. While I'm not certain that would actually happen, the idea is an extremely intriguing one.
Cole suggests the game be played at the Minnesota Twins' new outdoor stadium, but it has been whispered that the Wild are pushing for the game to be held at the new Golden Gophers outdoor football stadium. If the Wild are indeed going to be involved in a future Winter Classic, then the Dallas Stars would be one hell of a smart choice for the opponent. The biggest issue will the question of how many Stars fans will make the trek to Minnesota for the game, but there's no doubt that the game will be sold out no matter who the Wild play.
There are some that are not in favor of such a matchup, however. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star is up in arms over another potential U.S. vs. U.S. team game, when a Canadian team hasn't been involved yet. He says that ratings and popularity would be even bigger, especially on NBC but that argument doesn't hold up whatsoever. NBC isn't carried in Canadian markets and the NHL isn't fighting for ratings and revenue in the northern states and in Canada. [EDIT: NBC does carry the game in Canada. The issue is actually over shared revenue for TV broadcasts, from what I understand. Which apparently isn't much when it comes the televised contracts for these games.]
Where the NHL is desperate for some good P.R. is in Florida, Arizona, Tennesee and Atlanta. Some have mentioned a Florida and Tampa Bay matchup, which is interesting but it's questionable how an outdoor hockey rink would hold up in that weather, even in January.
Most likely, we'll see a Winter Classic hosted in Washington next season between the Capitals and one of the New York teams, or one of their other division rivals. An outdoor game between the Rangers and Islanders would be something to behold as well.
But the the Dallas Stars are at least trying to bring the game in their direction and it's something you'd love to see work out. For a town that is dominated by football and even basketball, having the Stars take center stage again would be a tremendous boost for the team. It would also be a big boost for any other team in the NHL, which is why there is going to be some heavy lobbying starting this week for the next game.
It would be a long shot for the game to be at Cowboys Stadium, but it's at least a possibility. It's an even greater possibility to have the Stars play the Wild in Minnesota. Either one would be perfectly fine with me.