Winter Classic Post-Mortem: We’re Onto 2017..But Where?

The hype for the Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens was real right up until the puck was dropped just after 1:30 on Friday afternoon.

Habs forward David Desharnais scored 74 seconds in, setting the tone for the Habs 5-1 victory over a Bruins team that performed as if they’d rolled out of bed at 1:15 following a night of a few too many cocktails.

So it’s onto the next Winter Classic. Or in the Bruins case, Tuesday night’s date with current Eastern Conference standard-bearer Washington. But who wants to talk about that potential ugliness given the B’s recent stretch (four losses in last five games)?

So let’s bury the tape of B’s-Habs No. 910 next to the Pats infamous 30-10 loss to the Dolphins in Week 4 of the 2001 season and move onto the 2017 classic.

Here’s 10 possible matchups for the ninth Winter Classic:

Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia at Beaver Stadium, Penn State. Penn State has had a hockey renaissance, with its men’s hockey program (which began competing in NCAA Division I in 2013) ranked 14th in the country, playing with NCAA Tournament aspirations. And why has there not been a Flyers-Penguins Winter Classic yet? Imagine that matchup. Eating nails for breakfast while the rest of the world feasts on bacon. It wouldn’t be bad television, that’s for sure. Though, I suppose the same was said about Bruins-Canadiens.

Dallas vs. Minnesota at Target Field, Minneapolis. I’m not a fan of these games being played a baseball parks, but U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings set to open later this year, is a retractable roof facility. When in doubt, go with the open-air facility. So I’ll give the Ballpark Exception because Minnesota deserves to have a bone thrown its way. They’ve had it twice in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, once in Michigan, Buffalo, Chicago, then once in Washington D.C. Do you really think Washington D.C. is more of a hockey hotbed than Minnesota? Don’t answer that.

Anyway, a reunion of sorts, the artists formerly known as the North Stars against the Wild, who helped fill the Mike Modano-sized void in Minnesota’s heart after the Stars departed for Dallas in 1993. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn will put on a show opposite$98 million boys Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Colorado vs. Detroit at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It was the rivalry of the 1990s. Upon the 15th anniversary of the New Year’s Day sandwiched between the successive Stanley Cups the franchises won in 2001 (Avs) and 2002 (Wings), the last of five Cups the two teams combined to win over a seven-year span between 1996 and 2002, what better way to celebrate that great rivalry than a Winter Classic?

Vancouver vs. Boston at CenturyLink Field, Seattle. Granted, it’s highly unlikely there’ll be a second straight Bruins appearance in the classic after Friday’s showing. But listen to this idea. It’s been five years since the Bruins and Canucks seven-game fight where a few hockey games broke out. Time flies when you’re having fun. And, as Jack Edwards would say, who has more fun than us? Seeing a hockey game in the deafening home of the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th Man would be really fun. Since Seattle has no team to hitch its wagon to, the Vancouver crazies can make the trip down to Seattle, which is less than three hours away from British Columbia’s largest city. It could be a nice litmus test for whether Seattle is a viable destination for NHL expansion/relocation.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia at MetLife Stadium. A trip to the old stomping grounds for the Devils, who spent 25 years across the parking lot at the Izod Center before moving to nearby Newark in 2007. It’s where the Devils lived out their glory days, winning all three of their Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003) as residents of East Rutherford, N.J. What better celebration of those years than a tilt with the Flyers, who New Jersey defeated in in the Eastern Conference Finals that preceded its first two cups?

Columbus vs. NY Rangers at Ohio Stadium. Gotta play one at The Horseshoe. Only problem is the Blue Jackets don’t move the needle in Columbus. Or anywhere for that matter. Get the ratings machine that is the Rangers and play one before 100,000. Blueshirts fans can make a visit to the Football Hall of Fame, or something.

St. Louis vs. Chicago at Busch Stadium. Sightlines! Sightlines! Sightlines! Play in the masterpiece of ballyard architecture beneath the Gateway Arch. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews against Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes. Two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith against Alexander Pietrangelo, who is too good not to win one or two eventually. A celebration of the St. Louis-Chicago sports rivalry, one that doesn’t get the love it deserves. This one passes the Ballpark Exception with flying colors.

Chicago vs. Detroit at Lambeau Field. There’s a lot of injustices in this world, among the greatest being the fact the Great State of Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL franchise. Sunrise, Fla., but not Milwaukee. Makes perfect sense. Send the Packers on the road for Week 17 and give the Cheeseheads a grudge match of the 2009 Winter Classic, and another classic Original Six rivalry.

NY Islanders vs. Washington at Citi Field. If I had my druthers, this game would be at the Mack Sports Complex at Hofstra University, and give the Isles a home game back where they belong. But more than 5,000 seats are needed, which is why ‘The Mack’, or the 6,000-seat Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, N.Y., doesn’t cut it. Sorry, no Ballpark Exception for the home of the Long Island Ducks. So Citi Field is the closest thing. Ballpark Exception because it’s the biggest facility that side of the Throng’s Neck.

Islanders-Capitals, John Tavares vs. Alex Ovechkin, a meeting of the old Patrick Division rivals, who had six consecutive playoff tilts from 1983-88. Dale Hunter and Pierre Turgeon meet at center ice and drop the ceremonial first puck. OK, maybe not.

Buffalo vs. Edmonton at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Sometimes you just have to go home. It was the first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium that got the ball rolling on this thing. Who wouldn’t want to see a showdown between Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, the first two picks of the 2015 NHL Draft?

Hey, as long as it’s better than the dud that was the game played Friday afternoon at Gillette.


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