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.
here would be great, both for the league, and for Northern California for
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.
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.
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.
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