Chris Botta over at FanHouse talks a little about the dangers and fears that the NHL face when staging an outdoor event. If you don’t live in the Denver area you might think it’s too warm here to host the Winter Classic. Even some people that live here don’t think that it would be a wise endeavor.
But let’s look at a picture I took in my neighborhood today.
Denver has slightly higher average highs than Boston and Chicago during the day but Denver’s average low is actually lower than the previous host’s temperatures. But the big advantage Denver has is the lack of precipitation. Everyone has spent all week babbling about the possibility of rain and postponing the game in Boston. New Year’s Eve produced significant amounts of snow, enough that crews were hustling to keep the surface clear for practice. The Boston weatherman has also spent a lot of time talking a lot about the dew point which is another advantage in Denver, it’s always going to be lower in Denver than places out east and that improves the ice quality.
The other hot topic in Denver is where to host the Classic. Since ballparks seem to be the popular choice recently, Coors Field certainly seems the likely choice. It is a beautiful ballpark and despite my complaints about the fans being far from the rink, it may be the best choice. Due to the azimuth of the sun at this time of year and the height of the upper decks of Coors field that might block the southeastern sun, wouldn’t the rink be in the shade most of the day?? Denver could do a night game if there is concern about Colorado’s famously ever-present sunshine.
But football stadiums entered the discussion as well: Invesco Field as well as Folsom Field, home of the CU Buffs was suggested. I suspect the NHL likes the ballpark setting for one very obvious, strategic reason: capacity. Football stadiums hold more people and with the high demand so far there is little doubt that larger venues would have sold out.
Bettman likes the venue that allows a long term rink, note that Fenway has a women’s game scheduled, a couple college games, public skates, and an alumni game. All of this off-sets the cost of that $800,000 mobile ice truck and the week of set-up costs. I don’t think Invesco is a possibility for a lot of the reasons noted above but also because the Denver Broncos are never going to be able to say, sure, set up an ice rink on our field, we aren’t going to have any home playoff games anyway. The fans might say it, but the Broncos won’t.
But Folsom Field still seems to be a possibility and the setting is aesthetically pleasing and would be a more intimate setting for the fans. It also has the history that the NHL seems to favor, with football going back to 1924. Fans would be much closer to the rink, a major disadvantage to the ballfields that have been used. To fill out the schedule for the NHL, Denver University could play some games here, preferably against Colorado College, always a popular game. Also, how about the Colorado Eagles making a trip down from Loveland to play an outdoor game? First outdoor CHL game? I don’t know but regardless it would still be a unique situation.
So who should the Avs play? Well the Red Wings seem to be the leader in the club house around here. And maybe the Red Wings should be the opponent, but wouldn’t it be fun to see the Avs play an old Nordiques division rival like the Canadiens?
Back when the Nordiques were good, they often met the Habs in the playoffs. The Avs could ditch the current 3rd jersey they are sporting for one that is much better looking and harkens back to the days of Quebec. Though Bettman may not want to tempt his fate too much with such a game, he has already stirred to pot enough with his empty talk of a team returning to Quebec City.
But the NHL would probably prefer a team that hasn’t already made a WC appearance. All the old Adams division teams and the Wings have already been in the Classic.
So unfortunately I think those scenarios are out.
So how about the battle of the relocated teams, the Avs and the Devils? There’s some real old rivalry there from the Cup games and for the “classic” twist the Avs could wear Nordique jerseys and the Devils could wear Colorado Rockies jerseys. And NBC could have Chico Resch do some announcing!
Wouldn’t THAT be confusing? But the NHL likes to play with that whole vintage/throw-back stuff, so…I think it’s a go. You’re welcome commish!
Let me just wrap this up with another brilliant idea for you, Mr. Bettman. While Jason Cohen writes that the Winter Classic is pretty cool, but not enough for him to skip bowl games, I am very happy that the NHL has taken over this block of time on New Year’s Day. I’m not a college football fan and I find the WC a great event on a day when I have zero interest in the college events. The NHL needs to take a chance on another football dominated day. Thanksgiving Day.
Yes, the NFL owns Thanksgiving but the NHL could still make some ground facing off the previous years’ Stanley Cup teams. A lot of people thought the NHL was nuts to play a game on New Year’s Day but look at where we are today. The NHL should take a shot at Thanksgiving too. Frankly, I love watching the NFL on Turkey Day but there are years when I couldn’t care less about Detroit or Dallas, regardless of who they play. A hockey game in the mix would be great and the NHL could take this day to match up the previous seasons Stanley Cup contenders. No outdoors game or anything like that, but the angle would be a single game re-match.
Don’t be afraid to keep expanding your horizons NHL. We all (usually) benefit when you institute new ideas that work well, are popular and well executed.
A version of this story originally appeared on HockeyIndependent.com
-From the Point