Winter Classic 2011 press conference at Heinz Field previews Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals outdoor game on New Year’s Day

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

NHL Bridgestone 2011 Winter Classic Pittsburgh Penguins Washington Capitals 2011 New Years Day logo

2011 NHL Bridgesone Winters Classic Pittsburgh Penguins throwback logo released

2011 NHL Bridgesone Winters Classic Washington Capitals throwback logo released

The NHL held the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic launch party yesterday to mild fanfare at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Winter Classic IV will showcase the 2008-09 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and former Art Ross and Rocket Richard winner Sidney Crosby, against the 2009-10 Presidents Trophy winning Washington Capitals and former Art Ross and 2-time Rocket Richard winner Alexander Ovechkin on New Year’s Day.

“If you love the fact that January 1st is the day we welcome the new year with a great outdoor event that celebrates the roots of our game, no matter which team you root for, no matter which rivalry you prefer, then this 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic here at Heinz Field will be a must-see moment,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at the press conference. Bettman is putting the league’s best foot forward with two of the NHL’s high profile franchises and two of its largest stars, but it is a little hard to get geared up for the event for two reasons. The first being the 5+ month cushion between the announcement and the game itself, the second is the fact that there is little to no possibility of the outdoor gala ever coming to the West Coast.

San Jose Sharks President/CEO Greg Jamison speculated about a possible outdoor game being held in Northern California earlier this year on CSNBA. “That has come up numerous times, we have had conversations about it, AT&T Park, Stanford, maybe a couple of other venues, it isn’t really the temperature that concerns us, around here in January it is rain,” Jamison said. “That would be the hardest thing to overcome for the Winter Classic because basically you couldn’t do it. You would have to cover it someway, and that would defeat the whole purpose of the open-air venue.”

Jamison complimented the presentation of the 2010 Winter Classic held at Fenway Park between Boston and Philadelphia, and the 2008 Winter Classic held in Buffalo between the Sabres and Pittsburgh. He also noted that he was in attendance for Detroit’s 6-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks January 1st, 2009 at Wrigley Field. “It was a fantastic atmosphere. The place was full, it was cold. Let me say that again, it was cold… It really was a neat event to be a part of,” Jamison said. “I would love to, and our organization would love to have one. Other West Coast teams have talked about it, it is just a matter of it being so hard to control the weather.”

Jamison is correct that other West Coast teams have expressed interest, an interest that intensified in 2009 when NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins told Bloomberg News that the Las Vegas Strip, Yankee Stadium and Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl were possible venues. While Las Vegas may have popped up due to scouting for this year’s NHL Awards Show, even the mention of a West Coast option was a little striking.

Los Angeles Times columnist Helene Elliott followed up with NHL ice guru Dan Craig. Technically it is possible to stage a game on the West Coast with the NHL’s advanced ice making technologies. Craig told the 2010 Winter Classic media horde that the NHL’s high tech ice making truck could create ice at least up to 50 degrees, and possibly into the 60′s, and that rain would not be a problem. “I will never say never,” Craig told Elliott about the possibility of a West Coast Winter Classic, “because when I started with the National Hockey League 10 years ago, nobody told me that I’d be doing a hockey rink in Wrigley Field.” It was also noted that at that time in 2009, New York, Washington, Detroit, Philadelphia and Minneapolis had made Winter Classic inquiries, no one from Southern California had made a call.

The technology may be there to pull off a game, but speculation about a Northern California Winter Classic may be a little premature. Fog rolling over the stadium at AT&T Park in San Francisco would be an incredible sight, but potential stadium locations in Santa Clara (49ers) and San Jose (A’s) are years away from being approved by the NFL and voters respectively, let alone being built. Fans in Los Angeles have created concept images of what Winter Classic setups would look like at Dodger Stadium and the Rose Bowl (can’t find the link), but more than likely the NHL would not move it West until other locations were exhausted.

So Tuesday’s Winter Classic announcement was watched with a little detachment. This season’s edition may create iconic blizzard covered imagery similar to 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, we may get an insipred genre-breaking marketing campaign similar to 2009, or another incredible walkoff overtime game winning goal similar to the one former Shark Marco Strum scored for Boston in January, but for the foreseeable future none of those are likely to occur as part of an outdoor game played on the West Coast.

For now, we can enjoy the break in the barren wasteland that is hockey news in the middle of summer, and enjoy watching hockey players trying to shoot pucks through football uprights: part 1, part 2, part 3. Keep an eye on that Alex Ovechkin January 1st, he–could–go–all–the–way.

[Update] NHL unveils Winter Classic plans – Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.

[Update2] From the NHL:

The NHL this season will play an outdoor regular-season game in Canada. The NHL Heritage Classic will be played at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Sunday, February 20 and feature the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames. CBC and RDS will carry the game in Canada and VERSUS will telecast the outdoor match in the United States. It will be the first regular-season NHL game contested outdoors in Canada since the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium on November 22, 2003.

[Update3] Winter Classic in Pittsburgh will ‘make a statement of its own’, After the NHL unveils its plans for the Penguins-Capitals game at Heinz Field, league exec John Collins discusses the annual event, TV talks and All-Star Game ideas – Craig Custance for

Q: There’s an assumption that New York is the front-runner for the 2012 Winter Classic. Is that assumption accurate?

JC: I don’t know if there’s a front-runner. There’s a bunch of great markets we’d like to get to. New York would be one of them. Detroit would be one of them … Minneapolis, St. Louis, Denver — I’m going to start on a list and it’s going to take me five minutes to stop. Every club that has come to us that wants to host this thing has come at us with a vision that is really compelling. That why I’m saying, it’s a great opportunity but it’s also a challenge — how to keep the Winter Classic special while still getting it around to all that markets that deserve a game.

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