On Friday afternoon, the Bruins and Flyers squared off in a thrilling contest that ended in overtime. At Fenway, 38,112 fans stuffed the old park to the brim, and 10 times that amount were turned away. By all measures, the three-year-old Winter Classic is a resounding success, and as Yankee Stadium is primed for off-season events, it’s just a matter of time before the NHL picks the Bronx as the site for a Winter Classic.
For the last few months, we’ve heard on-again, off-again rumors about the NHL’s interest in bringing the Classic to Yankee Stadium in 2011, but the Yanks have made a December commitment to the NCAA. Over the next few years, the stadium is due to host a bowl game. Because of the lead time the NHL requires — approximately seven to ten days — for the venue hosting the Classic, the Yankee Stadium bowl may preclude the Winter Classic.
Andrew Gross, a staff writer for The Record, throws an interesting wrench into the Winter Classic planning for the stadium and opens the door for a 2011 date in the Bronx. He writes:
The NHL didn’t award the 2010 Winter Classic — won by the Bruins, 2-1, Friday afternoon on Marco Sturm’s goal at 1:57 of overtime — until July 15, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman indicated discussions on what would be the fourth annual outdoor game on Jan. 1, 2011 would not begin immediately.
“We want a community where the game can have an impact, first and foremost, in addition to a good market that we think will support the game,” Bettman said. “We need the right facility. And, obviously, we have to be in a place where we think the weather will be OK.”
In September, Yankees officials announced the new Stadium would host an as-of-yet unnamed bowl game pitting teams from the Big East and Big 12 conferences. But despite saying the game would be played sometime between Dec. 25-Jan. 1, which would preclude the NHL from setting up a rink, the new bowl game does not yet have a television contract. That means it’s not yet locked into a date.
For the Yankees, keeping the stadium open for sports business during the off-season is a matter of money as much as it is anything else. The team built a multi-billion-dollar sports venue, and as Lonn Trost once said, they want to make use of it for more than 81 regular season games plus some playoff dates.
We probably won’t find out until the summer where the NHL plans to host its next Classic, but it could very well be Yankee Stadium. Even as temperatures hover in the high-20s this weekend, you can bet that the joint would be jumping for a Rangers game outdoors come 2011. Whether the Bowl game impacts these plans remains to be seen.