Excitement for Saturday’s Bridgestone Winter Classic is booming, thanks in large part to HBO’s mini-series, but some have already begun to worry about what the NHL can do with next year’s Winter Classic that could match this hype.By pitting its two most marketable stars against one another this year, the NHL has limited its options for next year’s game.
Assuming the league doesn’t want to use Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin in back to back years, the league is left with only a few sensible options:
- Philadelphia – The Flyers’ ready-to-go rivalry with the New York Rangers might play out very well on HBO if the network chooses to do another mini-series next year. Plus, the Flyers are one of the league’s best teams and have no shortage of personalities. The consensus at this point is that the “Original Six” Rangers against the Flyers is the most likely choice for next year’s Classic.
- Detroit – Though the Red Wings have already gotten to play in the Winter Classic, the NHL might be looking at the record-breaking “Big Chill” game between Michigan and Michigan State earlier this month and see a potential gold mine.
- Minnesota – This state is already hockey crazy and there’s no doubt that the anticipation for an outdoor game here would be insane. The problem is that the Wild might be the least-marketable team in the country right now.
- A southern state – Here’s a wild card. Interest in hockey is minimal in the southern United States, but the national attention the Winter Classic gets might pique the interest of some hockey-oblivious fans in Tampa Bay, Phoenix, or Atlanta. The climate of these cities isn’t in alignment with the spirit of the Winter Classic, but the chance at expanding the sport’s influence is enticing. It might be more difficult to keep the ice at the appropriate temperature, but this is a high-risk, high-reward gamble that could pay huge dividends for the NHL.
Other possibilities: New York, Denver, Washington D.C., Chicago.
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