Report: Toronto remains front-runner to host 2017 Winter Classic

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From ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the front-runner to host next year’s Winter Classic for their centennial season, although sources say it’s not a done deal at this point.

The Maple Leafs, like the NHL, are celebrating their 100-year anniversary next season, so either way, sources say an outdoor game at BMO Field is likely. The question is whether it’s the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 or a Stadium Series game later in the season.

This isn’t the first time it’s been reported that Toronto could host the 2017 Winter Classic. Two years ago, the day the Leafs played the Red Wings at Michigan Stadium, Sportsnet reported the same thing.

Of note, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently told USA Today that a Winter Classic — because it’s broadcast on NBC — is unlikely to feature two Canadian teams.

“In terms of attracting a U.S. audience, you do need at least one U.S. team,” said Bettman.

LeBrun says the Rangers are the likely Leafs’ opponents.

If Toronto is not awarded the 2017 Winter Classic, LeBrun’s sources say that “a Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins matchup is possible for Jan. 1, either at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia or Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.”

Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has been raised as a potential site for a Pens-Flyers Winter Classic, but LeBrun’s report makes no mention of that.

Related: Rob Ford wants the Winter Classic for Toronto