Thursday, December 31, 2009

Future Winter Classic in NY/NJ?

Earlier this week, MSG's Game On! blog reported that some NJ officials have sent a letter to Gary Bettman requesting that next year's Winter Classic be held at the new Giants Stadium and feature the Rangers playing the Devils.

While I think this would be a lot of fun, no one should hold their breath on it happening.  In fact I would give it a 99% chance of not happening, and for a few reasons:

  1. I love the venue--the new stadium will be gorgeous and will fit upwards of 80,000 fans for football (more for hockey?).  However, there would have to be some serious NFL magic worked so that neither the Jets or Giants would have a home game in the last 2 weeks of the regular season or 1st week of the playoffs in order to allow enough time to get the rink set up and taken down.  Not only would the NFL scheduling gurus have to work some magic, but both the Jets and Giants would have to make some serious concessions in giving up a possible home playoff game and the revenue that comes with it.
  2. Back before the first Winter Classic in January 2008, there was a lot of discussion about an Islanders-Rangers showdown at the old Yankee Stadium.  Reports back then were that the NHL didn't want to have the focus come from just the NY market.  I don't necessarily agree with this, since coverage of the last 2 classics has been broad and I think that it's something hockey fans want to see no matter who's playing. That said...
  3. The Devils??  As of today, the Devils have had 20 home games and are 20th in the NHL in average attendance (21st if you base it on percent full).  They sold out their first 2 home games (opening night and 2 days later against the Rangers), but have crossed the 90% attendance mark just a handful of times since and sold out just 2 more games (Detroit and Pittsburgh).  If you put them in the Winter Classic, will more fans show up to see them? Sure...but they just don't have a broad enough appeal to secure a spot in the New Year's Day feature game, and it's really a shame for a franchise that's been arguably the second best in the league for the past 15 years.
If it were up to me, the 2011 Winter Classic would feature the Rangers taking on Alex Ovechkin the Washington Capitals at Giants Stadium (old or new).  It would have drawing power on TV and also to the stadium because the league would have one of its top teams (#1 in road attendance this season) coupled with one of its top players in Ovechkin.  

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