They’re not the same, in fact, they’re different — and any diehard hockey fan knows it, whether they want to admit it, or not.
Since 2008, the NHL has held 25 outdoor games for fans to gather at various types of venues across North America.
It was then that the league first introduced the “Winter Classic,” when the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres faced-off at (then) Ralph Wilson Stadium (home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills) on New Year’s Day, in what turned out to be one of the sport’s most memorable games and moments of all-time.
The outdoor game blossomed into an annual tradition that united the hockey world, and the concept took one step further in 2014 when the NHL introduced the “Stadium Series” games. Though, over a decade later, the verdict from the fans has leaned towards appreciating the Winter Classic more so than the Stadium Series games.
Hooked on Hockey Magazine ranks the top five teams and hockey cities that deserve to host their first ever Winter Classic.
Keep in mind that the Winter Classic is typically played at MLB stadiums for the fact that the game falls on a day when NFL clubs are still in action and the NHL may not be able to use a football stadium. Out of the 10 Winter Classic games that have been played, only three have been held at football venues, which also includes Collegiate stadiums.
Yes, the Colorado Avalanche and Denver have hosted an outdoor hockey game before, but it was a Stadium Series game. The Avalanche took to the ice against the Detroit Red Wings at Coors Field (home of the MLB’s Colorado Rockies) in what appeared to be a worthy venue for an outdoor hockey game.
It was an appealing matchup based off of the two teams’ historic Stanley Cup Playoff rivalry that lasted from the late 1990’s until the early 2000’s.
— Dan Milstein (@danmilstein) February 28, 2016
The Avs donned some new sweaters that also left NHL fans alike if Colorado would rebrand and introduce the uniforms, and the team’s current dark alternate jersey, as the new primary sweaters when Adidas took over the uniform rights in 2017. HOHM would be eager to see what an Avs Winter Classic jersey might potentially entail, too.
— MileHighSticking (@MHSAvalanche) May 25, 2017
After winning two Stanley Cups (1996 & 2001) the Avs deserve the national holiday of hosting a Winter Classic. It would be interesting, and if possible, to see the game played at Mile High Stadium and perhaps against another Western Conference team such as the Calgary Flames.
Columbus Blue Jackets
If fans thought that the Winter Classic played between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings in Ann Arbor, MI, at the University of Michigan’s Big House, was awesome; then fans should want to see another outdoor game in a comparable venue.
It’s time for the Columbus Blue Jackets to not only host an outdoor game, but a Winter Classic. Columbus is one of the few teams that still hasn’t played in any type of outdoor game since the Blue Jackets’ inception back in 2000-01, and a game played at Ohio State’s Horseshoe (Ohio Stadium) would be the perfect venue.
The stadium could end up breaking Michigan’s record for the highest attended professional hockey game in history, which would also add another dynamic to have college sports involved in all of the hype that the game entails.
The Jackets’ recent success and newly brewed rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins would be an appealing Winter Classic game, too. Yes, usually the NHL strays towards teams with an uncanny and vintage hockey history, but a team such as Columbus can offer an entertaining game.
Plus, the NHL would appreciate the idea of having Sidney Crosby and the Pens play in another Winter Classic.
New Jersey Devils
Times have changed in the Garden State for the New Jersey Devils, and for the better.
With forwards Taylor Hall and the young Nico Hischier leading the way for what’s on the rise in Jersey, the Devils would make for an appealing team to host a Winter Classic and as early as 2020. MetLife and Yankee Stadium would be the obvious locations for a New Jersey Winter Classic, and as much as NHL fans alike would want to see the New York Rangers nominated as the visiting club – let’s change things up considering that the two met back at Yankee Stadium in 2014 for a Stadium Series matchup.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens or Boston Bruins could all end up being worthy opponents for the Devils in a future Winter Classic. There’s playoff history with all three of those clubs and having a New York area team play another major market gives it more of a national-coverage vibe.
The alumni games for any of those contests would produce appealing headlines, too. Plus, do the Devils dare to wear the Colorado Rockies uniforms?
New York Islanders
It’s almost hard to believe that the New York Islanders haven’t hosted a Winter Classic game, yet. The team has a rich history from the Isles’ Stanley Cup dynasty run from 1980-1983 that the league could market, and the orange and blue’s fan base is one of the best that the league has to offer.
While the Islanders and New York Rangers faced-off in a Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium back in 2014, the Isles deserve to host a Winter Classic and hopefully at MetLife or Citi Field.
Since the two rivals mentioned above have already played in an outdoor game, a Winter Classic between the Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers would be fitting; especially considering that was the team New York defeated to hoist its first Stanley Cup championship.
Or, the team could host John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The State of Hockey hasn’t hosted a Winter Classic yet, and that needs to change.
It’s understandable that one of the league’s younger organizations (2000-01) has only played in one Stadium Series to date (vs. Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium), but a Winter Classic against a team such as the Dallas Stars would act as an appealing matchup.
The Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas back in 1994, so there’s already a direct tie for the matchup with the State of Hockey, its beloved Wild and former Stars. Minneapolis would make for a festive Winter Classic and if the team wanted to change things up – the Wild could always end up hosting it at Target Field (home of the MLB’s Minnesota Twins), which is fairly new considering that it opened up less than 10 years ago.