My vote is either Montreal, Detroit, or Toronto.
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It has been suggested in other media that Montreal would be a great tie-in to celebrate the organization's 100th anniversary. Great idea to highlight Original Six in any form.
Another floater has been to tie the Winter Classic to the All-Star Game. I like that idea even better if the All-Star Game is held in a northern clime.
I would imagine the Winter Classic ratings will be encouraging. And I even saw several promos of the game, in depth, on the Weather Channel, due to the novelty of an outdoor game in lake-effect snow. However, a big factor, at least for folks in my neck of the woods, is to get the next outdoor extravaganza off the New Year's Day date. Although the state of Michigan is a huge hockey viewing audience it is also big on college football. And we always have somebody (usually UM) in a January 1st bowl game. Unfortunately, the Winter Classic started at exactly the same time as the Wolverines and Gators.
I happen to be an MSU alumna so always enjoy cheering on fellow Spartan Ryan Miller. But, my 80-year old mother graduated from Michigan. And, for her, it is Red Wings or nothing in hockey. So this afternoon was a dizzying whirl of clicking back and forth between the two games. I was hoping for a Gators blow-out, since they were the overwhelming favorites to win. Given that eventuality I figured I could permanently switch to the hockey game at halftime. But, darn if Michigan didn't decide for the first time in a long time to win a bowl game.
My personal preference for a future Winter Classic would be either Wings/Leafs or Wings/Habs in either of the three cities. And in Detroit, Ford Field would be ideal for several reasons.
Ford Field seats approximately 65,000 and also has club seating. Plus - for hockey writers in the traditional media - the press box is heated. Additionally, the stadium is rather new and boasts the best sight lines in the country for NFL games. Lord knows, it will be Doomsday before the Lions ever again are in a playoff game so there should be plenty of time to convert the field, although the "Motor City Bowl" is the day after Christmas.
Another serious consideration is, of course, the weather. It is truly remarkable that today's game was not destroyed by a blizzard. The last time the Sabres played the Wings at the Joe was October 13, 2006. On that date, Buffalo was hit with over two feet of snow and the power was out for tens of thousands of people for weeks. I remember that the FSN-Detroit crew panned the cameras on the huge boxes of generators in the staging area of the arena. Sabres players had purchased these to take back home. No date is safe from snow in Buffalo.
But, what about snow in Detroit? Well, that's the beauty of Ford Field - it has a retractable roof. If the fans and the players want to go al fresco, that is an option for the backyard pond feel. But should the gale winds start to blow in off the Detroit River, the show can go on - and millions of dollars of investment are not at risk of complete loss.
So, come to Detroit. And bring your "Fire Millen" signs with you.
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