(CBS) On Wednesday afternoon, what we’d long assumed became official: Nationals Park in Washington D.C. will host the Winter Classic between the Capitals and Blackhawks on New Year’s Day 2015.
Since the Winter Classic’s inception in 2008, there’s been surge in popularity for outdoor games, which actually can be traced en vogue to a 2001 collegiate contest between Michigan and Michigan State at Spartan Stadium. In addition to the Winter Classic, the Heritage Classic (contested between Canadian teams) has made a comeback after its 2003 debut, and last year the Stadium Series led to five more outdoor games.
With that in mind, here are five more locations that would make for awesome outdoor games, as ambitious as some may be.
Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, Pa.
Home of the Penn State football team, Beaver Stadium has a seating capacity of 107,282 when the pigskin is getting tossed around. If they could squeeze that many in for a hockey game too, it would set the record for the highest-attended hockey game on record, a mark that’s currently set at 104,173 for a collegiate contest between Michigan and Michigan State at Michigan Stadium in December 2010. The record would likely get a run for its money if the NHL matched up star Sidney Crosby’s Penguins against the rival Flyers. One logistical concern, though: Navigating your way to Happy Valley is tough in good weather; it could be really challenging in the winter weather and around the holiday season.
Target Field in Minneapolis
Minnesota loves its hockey as much as any state in America, but it has yet to host a Winter Classic and was left out of last year’s Stadium Series. Send a division rival the Wild’s way, and Target Field, home of the Twins, would make for quite the scene on New Year’s Day in downtown Minneapolis. The likely holdup, though? The Wild aren’t as big of a television draw as many others the league would consider — but this would be a nod to the sport’s roots.
Anywhere outdoors in Las Vegas
Hear us out. They played a Stadium Series game last season at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles without incident, so the technology has proved to work to keep the ice in good condition. The NHL has shown interest in Las Vegas, with rumors flying in the past that future expansion would bring a team to Sin City. And wouldn’t it be cool to have a game backdropped by The Strip? It’s something different, if nothing else. NHL players would probably love a visit to Vegas, though if it’s contested on New Year’s Day, it might lead to some sloppy early hockey from groggy players
AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
Two words put this on the radar: Jerry Jones. Having spearheaded the $1.2 billion palace with the goal of drawing as many mega-events — sports, entertainment and otherwise — as possible, Jones has expressed interest in hosting a hockey game there. The Cotton Bowl might make it logistically tough to host the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, and the weather wouldn’t be as wintry as in other cities, but the desire and powerful figurehead are there, giving it a chance.
Central Park in New York City
Before you call us crazy, consider that you probably never thought they’d be playing college basketball games on aircraft carriers and in military base hangars. But they are.
So let’s hold a festival in Central Park, erect as much temporary seating as safety and weather would allow and then have a picturesque contest with the quintessential pond hockey feel to it. It’d be great. Would the NHL be forfeiting a boatload of money? Of course, which makes it more than far-fetched. But we can always dream.