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2012 NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park

Flyers vs Rangers: January 2, 2012 - Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia - 8:00pm

Philadelphia will be in the NHL spotlight again, playing in their second Winter Classic in just five years of existence.  This time, they will host the annual event, facing off against the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park.  

Next years Winter Classic will be a bit different.  Here's a look at some of the changes to the event, some unique patterns, and some expectations.  

FLYERS WINTER CLASSIC Changes:  The Winter Classic - an outdoor hockey game - has been held annually on New Years Day since 2008.  For the first time, the 2012 game will not be played on New Years Day.  New Years falls on a Sunday next year... football day.  The NHL and NBC would rather not attempt to go head-to-head against the NFL.  Instead, they will play the game on Monday, January 2 at 8:00pm.  Don't worry NFL fans, there is no Monday Night Football that week!   

Venue:  With the event set to take place at Citizens Bank Park, 3-of-5 Winter Classic games will have been played in baseball stadiums.  The Linc would have been a more suitable location for multiple reasons.  First, the rink is the same shape as a football stadium.  It's a much better fit!  Second, Citizens Bank Park holds roughly 20,000 fewer spectators.  Once again, the NFL activity plays a role in NHL decision making.  The Eagles are scheduled to host the Washington Redskins at the Linc on January 1.  It would not be possible to install and ice rink overnight.  Citizens Bank Park is their only option.  I wonder if they ever considered Franklin Field?

Weather:  The location of the event is certainly questionable.  Don't get me wrong, it is great that Philadelphia was chosen to host the event.  It says a lot about the Flyers, the city, and their fan-base.  Philadelphia, however, is not necessarily a frozen tundra.  We expect the Winter Classic to be cold and snowy.  That is unlikely to happen in Philly.  Since 2000 (11-years), here's a look at Philly weather on New Years:

  • Average daily temperatures were above freezing (32-degrees) in 8-of-11 years
  • 7-of-11 years saw temperatures over 50-degrees
  • The temperature has reached as high 64-degrees

Note: The fact that the game is scheduled for 8pm allows for much better conditions.  Weather in Philly can be mild, but it definitely gets cold at night!

Favoritism:  The NHL definitely seems to be very selective about who plays in the Winter Classic, as well as where it is played.  2012 will mark the fifth Winter Classic, allowing 10-of-30 NHL teams the opportunity to participate. 

  • No Canadian team has been selected to play, let alone host the event.  There has been talk of a second Winter Classic game to be played in Canada between two Canadian teams, but that has yet to happen.  In 2011, there was a "Heritage Classic" game - basically the same idea as the Winter Classic but not played on New Years Day.  It seems the Canadians have been excluded from the Winter Classic.
  • Two teams - Flyers and Penguins, having played in multiple Winter Classics - account for 4-of-10 of the appearances.
  • Eastern Conference teams account for 8-of-10 appearances.
  • The Flyers, Rangers, Penguins, Bruins, and Capitals account for 7-of-10 appearances.  Though they may be divided into three separate divisions, they are all situated in northeast markets.  8-of-10 if you include Buffalo.    

It is obvious teams and locations are selected by TV rating potential.  This makes sense, but leads me to ask the question: why bother having all these teams in dead markets if there is that little interest?  

Winter Classic Uniforms:  It has been customary for teams to wear throwback sweaters for the Winter Classic.

  • 2008 - Pittsburgh Penguins: 1970-71
  • 2008 - Buffalo Sabres: 1970-71
  • 2009 - Detroit Red Wings: 1926-27 (Detroit Cougars)
  • 2009 - Chicago Blackhawks: 1935-36 with 1948-49 logo
  • 2010 - Philadelphia Flyers: 1973-74 with modern font for numbers and black nameplate
  • 2010 - Boston Bruins: 1958-59 with brown stripes instead of black and 48-49 inspired logo
  • 2011 - Washington Capitals: 1974-75
  • 2011 - Pittsburgh Penguins: 1967-68 with colors reversed with crest logo instead of diagonal lettering

I fully expect the NY Rangers to don a cool looking throwback, but what can we expect from the Flyers?  The Flyers used their throwback uniform at the 2010 Winter Classic, then turned them into their current road uniforms.  They really don't have anything left to choose from.  I expect them to create a new 1940-ish retro style shoe-string look that will go on to become an alternate jersey.

Who's Getting Skipped?  It has already been pointed out that certain teams and venues have been picked to promote the event for obvious reasons.  There are, however, a few surprises that have been skipped over.  

  • Obviously, any Canadian team that gets skipped is a surprise.  I understand the event is geared toward an American audience, but hockey is a Canadian sport.  Any hockey game with the word "classic" in it could reasonably be associated with Canada.
  • Considering Revenue Motivations: I am shocked that it took five years to get a New York team to the event.  More shocking, I can't believe New York has yet to host the event.  In fact, they aren't even scheduled to host one yet. 
  • Considering Traditional Motivations: The Red Wings have participated in the event, but oddly, "Hockeytown" has yet to host the event.  Does that make sense?  I also want to know why Minnesota has not been involved yet.  It's hard to find a market in the US with a better hockey background.    

Patterns:  This is interesting...

  • The visiting team at the first three Winter Classics advanced to and LOST the Stanley Cup.  2007/08 Penguins (lost cup to Detroit), 2008/09 Red Wings (lost cup to Pittsburgh), and the 2009/10 Flyers (lost cup to Chicago).  The Washington Capitals were this years visiting team at the Winter Classic, but have been eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the semi-finals.  This trend will be broken!
  • Since the Winter Classic began in 2008, one of the participants has gone on to win the Stanley Cup in the subsequent season.  Pittsburgh participated in 2008, won the cup in 2009.  Chicago participated in 2009, won the cup in 2010.  The Bruins participated in 2010, and are currently playing in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  They may keep this trend going! 

Future of the Winter Classic:  It will be interesting to see how the Winter Classic is handled in the future.  The Flyers will be the second team to participate in the event for a second time.  That is impressive, considering there have only been four games.  Not to mention that there are 22-teams that have not even been given the chance to participate yet.  With each passing year, it would seem reasonable to allow more teams the chance to participate, but trends show there might just be a handful of teams awarded this privilege.  

As far as location is concerned, cities in colder climates stand out.  If Canadian teams are excluded, the choices drastically narrow.  Technology, however, allows them to play outdoors in warmer weather.  There has been interest from in hosting the Winter Classic from Dallas to the Rose Bowl.  It will be interesting to see how the future of the event develops!    






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what about colorado and carolina... Quebec and aArtford

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