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Winter CAL-assic? Yes!
Let's play one outside
1/8/08 - By Jess Knaster

Last week, an event took place in Buffalo. It was a hockey game that reminded all of those involved where they grew their love for the game. Strapping on the gear in the great outdoors, with the temperature low, the snow falling, and 73,000 screaming maniacs ready to watch every move.

Ok, so maybe playing in front of those 73,000 aren't exactly the roots from which NHLers grew their love for the game, but hey, if you play it, they will watch, right? January 1st was the latest offering of the outdoor spectacle, with this particular incarnation named "The 2008 NHL Winter Classic". Following three previous outdoor games (The Cold War: Michigan vs Michigan State, The NHL Heritage Classic: Montreal vs Edmonton, and the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic: Ohio State vs Wisconsin), the Buffalo version looked like a game that was better enjoyed from my couch with a warm cup of Thank God I'm Not Out There.

With the 4th edition of the outdoor game a success, the future of the spectacle seems certain to be repeated time and time again. The only real question, however, is where does it go next? Sure, the game could take place in Canada, Minnesota, Chicago, NYC, Boston, or even Denver, but to really show how the game has grown while paying tribute to it's roots, the game should be brought out west.

A game here would be great, both for the league, and for Northern California for several reasons.

First, since the Gunds brought NHL hockey back to NorCal in 1991, hockey has spread like a wildfire in the Bay winds. Youth leagues are everywhere, high schools and colleges have picked up teams, and even adult leagues are pretty prevalent.

Second, the revenue brought in by an event of that magnitude never hurts. Hotel reservations, restaurant and bar bills, and even tailgating supplies won't hurt the economy, even if just for a day.

Lastly, while games played in the north can show off hockey at it's roots, a game in the Bay Area would show off how far hockey has come. Ideally, a Sharks hosted outdoor game would see them play the Kings. LA in their gold and purple jerseys, and the Sharks in green and gold jerseys paying tribute to the first Bay Area NHL team, the Oakland Seals, complete with white skates. Of course, if they're going to play here, they need a place to do it, I see three viable venues.

1) Stanford Stadium. Closest of the three to San Jose, newly renovated Stanford Stadium can house 50,000 people, a number not as big as Buffalo, but a great amount for a hockey game nonetheless.

2) Oakland Coliseum. Able to hold 63,026, if the game is deemed that popular. Right next door to the former home of the Seals, it would create a good tie-in for the current with the past.

3) Candlestick Park. Located in San Francisco, The 'Stick can hold the most of the three parks, at a whopping 70,207. With howling winds, The 'Stick gives the best winter atmosphere, as it's usually colder inside the grounds than it is outside.

Regardless of the location, a Winter Classic in California truly would be classic. With a potential to draw 70,000 for a hockey game in California, such an event would be an exclamation point on the popularity of the game in the Golden State. I don't really care who wins that game, (well, I don't, as long as it's the Sharks) because, if 50,000, 60,000, or 70,000 Californians come out for a hockey game, we all win.



Contact Jess at sharkshockeyodyssey@yahoo.com



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