The Winter Classic has come and gone once again and this time at Fenway Park was another spectacle to watch, there is nothing like watching professional players, playing outdoors in what can come across to us as a game of shinny. We can all relate to that growing up and going into our backyards or the local community rink with temperatures below zero, the frost coming out of our mouths as we spend hours every day and week through the winter months, not so much chasing a dream but in love with a game. The time now has come for one of the biggest franchises, if not the biggest to take their turn hosting the NHL's Winter Classic. The Toronto Maple Leafs want to host the event and why wouldn't they but the problem facing the organization is that there is not a viable location to host the event in Toronto. The Leafs would like to host the game at BMO Field but the size of the stadium with a capacity of now of around 22,000 with a small expansion taking place this off season is not what the NHL is looking for as the league wants the event to be on a larger scale. The other option in the city would be the Rogers Centre which can sit about 50,000 this is more to the scale that the league would like but the downside with the Rogers Centre is that it is a retractable Domed stadium and is normally sealed after the baseball and football seasons are over. The stadium may have a problem opening/closing during a cold freezing day and does not have the outdoor shinny feel to the game as most of us would like.
The viable alternative may be taking the game out of the city of Toronto and placing it forty minutes away at Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium. Ivor Wynne has a capacity of about 29,000 and can be expanded to 43,000 with temporary seating as the city of Hamilton did in 1996 when they hosted the Grey Cup. This act from the Maple Leafs organization will go a long way in mending some fences with Hamilton residents who feel that the Leafs had quite a big role in denying the city an NHL team this past season when RIM's Jim Balsillie was trying to make it seven in Canada by purchasing and moving the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, this move was eventually squashed by the league. The Maple Leafs organization would have their outdoor game and this would be looked at as a class move by the organization sharing the Winter Classic with all of Southern Ontario. The transportation to Hamilton for the game for many Torontonians and others from Southern Ontario would be quite easy by car, bus or train. The Winter Classic has become the NHLs biggest event in North America, where many Americans are giving up watching their NCAA Bowl Games on New Years Day to catch a glimpse of this game and this event needs to be in the biggest NHL market in North America and Ivor Wynne Stadium could make this dream come true for the team and the league. The opponents for this monumental game could range from a number of teams, my personal choice would be the New York Rangers the only other original six team to not take part in the Classic yet. The Ottawa Senators would also be a good option as the clubs would take the Battle of Ontario to a whole another level outdoors. The only other teams I would prefer the Leafs play in the Winter Classic ommitting teams that have already participated would be the Vancouver Canucks another Canadian club with some of the same problems as Toronto in trying to find a location to host the game and the New York Islanders who are rich in tradition having won four Stanley Cups in the early eighties.
The Winter Classic needs to be hosted by the Toronto Maple Leafs and we may have just found a way to make it happen.