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Monday, January 10, 2011

Pros & Cons - Theoretical Winter Classics

Here we are - half way through with much more to do! I truly believe that this has been a successful season (so far, knock on wood) for our beloved New York Rangers. The mentality of the team is maturing, yet the average age is getting younger. Yesterday’s trade of Michael Rozsival is a great indication that management may finally have their head on straight. We’re not where we want to be just yet, but champions are born in the years preceding their championship. If we can keep up the effort, it’ll show in the standings. Let’s Go Rangers!!!

With that being said, there’s still some topical content to address. December and January are statement months for the NHL. The league’s regular season now has two signature, fan-favorite events: the now annual tradition of the Winter Classic and the now annual tradition of discussing next year’s Winter Classic (screw the ASG). It didn’t take long for blogs and other disreputable sports sites like to take to the rumor mill. There are plenty of potential match-ups being proposed, and I’d like to address some of the possible Classics I’ve seen.

Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers

Pros: Besides the obvious pro of including our Blueshirts, this game would give fans and viewers around the world the opportunity to witness first hand how beautiful the game of hockey can be when played in the vicinity of Henrik Lundqvist.
Cons: Dan Carcillo, Chris Pronger and Sean Avery on the same ice at the same time has NBC worried that the game might turn into an episode of CSI, which of course would be free promotion for rival network CBS.

New Yankee Stadium – Bronx, New York
New York Rangers vs New York Islanders

Pros: Setting up a cross-town rivalry game in this historic-yet-modern setting would bring out the grit and physicality in the new years day game, which is good because the final score wouldn’t even be close. Hell, if Rick DiPietro is starting we may even see the first Winter Classic with a double digit final score.
Cons: Besides the fact that Yankee Stadium is committed to hosting the Pinstripe Bowl for the foreseeable future, NHL executives are worried that the extremely expensive seats and boxes would not sell out and the stadium could look empty, much like a regular Islanders home game.

New Medowlands Stadium – East Rutherford, New Jersey
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils

Pros: Hosting the game in this brand new stadium would ensure that the NHL gets the very best of everything – high seating capacity, great sight lines, modern amenities and superior music. Seriously, if Pittsburgh thought a pregame performance from The Clarks was special, wait ‘til they get a load of Bruce The Boss blasting E-Street goodness all in their faces!
Cons: Besides the ambiguity about which franchise would be the game’s host, the match up would limit the Classic’s potential success by restricting the game to only one designated market area and only one competitive team.

Mile High Stadium – Denver, Colorado
Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings

Pros: Winter weather wouldn’t be a concern for Dan Craig and the ice crew in this Rocky Mountain atmosphere. Unless the league wants to go all Mystery, Alaska on our ass, Colorado is basically the west coast’s only option as far as hosting goes. Plus it would give the NHL a chance to make every Quebecer’s dream come true - to see their departed-yet-beloved Nordiques back in action, if only for a day.
Cons: Because Claude Lemieux and Darren McCarty no longer play in the NHL (though both did attempt comebacks before, so you never know), the task of starting the traditional bench-clearing brawl will pass on to Adam Foote and Kris Draper – don’t expect fireworks from these grandpas…

Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, Michigan
Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Pros: The NCAA set a world record for attendance at a hockey game after a staggering 113,411 witnessed Michigan trounce Michigan State late last year, and you know the NHL took notice. Shouldn’t the world’s best league hold the world record for best attendance? I expect the NHL would make breaking it a sure thing by loading up the auxiliary rink with a shit ton of children and forcing couples to sit on their significant other’s lap.
Cons: A rematch of the 2009 Winter Classic would also be intriguing given the old “familiarity breeds contempt” idea. Oh wait, “familiarity” is the regurgitated match up and “contempt” is that feeling deep in my stomach when I hear that the Rangers are, yet again, not included in the Classic.

Ohio Stadium – Columbus, Ohio
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings

Pros: A “Classic” college football stadium and an outdoor NHL game might be all this fringe market needs to finally embrace hockey like they do Buckeye football.
Cons: Who are we kidding, no one would show up. Plus, the Blue Jackets franchise is only 10 years old, so in order to choose a valid retro uniform they’d actually have to get civil war-era blue jackets and play in those.

Target Field – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minnesota Wild vs. Dallas Stars

Pros: 1992, meet 2012. The possibility of a Wild versus North Stars Winter Classic has Minnesotans all giddy and excited. Unfortunately for all of them, both teams would inevitably hold true to their history and refuse to win the game.
Cons: Besides the fact that few Dallas Stars fans are likely to make the lengthy trip to Minnesota, NBC has expressed concern over any match ups that don’t include Sidney Crosby so don’t expect to see this one before 2029.

Beaver Stadium – University Park, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Pros: Half way between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Penn State football stadium would be the perfect battleground for this Pennsylvania Face-Off. A seating capacity of 107,000 would shatter all previous Winter Classic in terms of attendance as well, unless of course people stay home due to hazardous, Pronger-like conditions in the area.
Cons: Although the stadium’s capacity may seem attractive at first glance, league officials will be hesitant to green light the all-Penn game due to the inherent danger in packing that many scumbags into one place at one time.

FedEx Field – Landover, Maryland
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Pros: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! That’s what fans of the 2011 Winter Classic are saying anyways. The league doesn’t give a shit if it’s nice to share, Canada, if it ain’t bringing in record TV ratings and shattering revenue precedents, it ain’t worth holding.
Cons: If HBO and the NHL get one more taste of this match up, they may just make the Caps and Penguins obligatory Winter Classic participants… until Sidney Crosby gets traded to LA, that is!

Safeco Field – Seattle, Washington
Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Pros: On first glance, one might wonder why? Given the NHL’s commitment to new markets, introducing Seattle to the game of hockey through the Winter Classic might just be one-punch-knockout in terms of event marketing. They’ll be clamoring for an expansion team faster than you can say, “The Seahawks were only 7-9”.
Cons: Giving the game to a city without an NHL team is a risky move for the league. Franchises like Atlanta and Phoenix will wonder why they weren’t thrown a revenue life raft, until Gary Bettman reminds them that outdoor hockey in the south would be like Jon MacLean’s coaching career… just awful, start to finish, a complete failure. Lemaire isn’t doing too hot either, hahaha!

Thanks for your time, ladies and gentlemen, please be sure to tell your friends, loved ones and fellow hockey fans about ’94 Parade! Us Ranger fans have a big week in front of us. With games against the Habs (twice), the west’s best Canucks, and the Flyers on Sunday to close it all out. Taking more than six points from this stretch would have me singing, especially if we beat Philly in the process. So in the hope that our boys stay healthy and make it happen, I give you this haiku entitled, “Half a Season Down, Half a Season Left to Go”.

Stop getting injured.
Before you know it, we’ll have
Weise on the first line.

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