During this season, the NHL had great success in pulling off two distinct outdoor games. There was the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh that saw the Penguins fall to the Washington Capitals and there was the Heritage Classic in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that saw the Flames shutout the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.
For next season, we’re hoping Canadian fans got their fill of the Heritage Classic because according to a report from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the NHL will only be putting on the Winter Classic and not the Heritage Classic. The 2011 Heritage Classic was the first one held in eight years since the original took place in Edmonton in 2003 and featured the Oilers taking on the Canadiens. While the Heritage Classic this year was a huge financial success, the availability of locations in Canada appears to be a major problem. There’s also the issue of the league oversaturating the market for outdoor games by staging two of them per year.
For next season, it’s rumored that the Flyers and Rangers will face off with each other in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park on January 2, 2012. The NHL has yet to confirm those reports but it’s believed strongly that that’s what the matchup and location will be. Not doing a Heritage Classic is likely to ruffle many feathers north of the border, but in order to pull these off they have to have a place large enough to host it and in a location where weather won’t be a major factor. Cities like Toronto and Montreal have ideal weather but no real place to hold the games. Vancouver has a venue that could be used but the weather along the Pacific Coast doesn’t lend itself well to real winter-like conditions.
While the report says that the Heritage Classic won’t be played this year, there’s hope it’ll return for the 2012-2013 season. That could lead to the possibility of seeing one take place in Winnipeg but there are some issues there that would need to be settled as far as a venue plus the weather during winter in Winnipeg is harsh, cold, and windy. Not the ideal sort of thing for hockey outdoors. That will be some time away to think about. We’re sure the NHL enjoys putting on these events as they’re a cash cow to put on, but they have to have the locations needed to do it and that’s just something they don’t have enough of in Canada.