Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter Classic should come to the Sierra or the Rockies

With the most recent Winter Classic, held in Fenway Park in Boston, being widely judged a success, a lot of attention is now turning where to hold future outdoor NHL games. A fun article on the Fox website proposes, among other ideas, a game between the Ducks and Kings at the L.A. Coliseum.

And I came across a Tweet proposing a game on the frozen ice of the national mall in Washington D.C. Can't you just imagine an errant slapshot clanging off the head of the Abe Lincoln statue?

Well, here's my brilliant idea: Instead of putting the game in another massive stadium in the Eastern U.S., move it to a truly scenic setting. And there are few more spectacular places than the Sierra Nevada or the Rocky Mountains.

The NHL could, for example, build a temporary rink with bleachers in the giant parking lot at Squaw Valley, scene of the 1960 Winter games -- where, by the way, the U.S. team beat the Soviet Union in the first version of the Miracle on Ice. Blyth Arena, where that game was held, was torn down in the early 1980s after the roof collapsed due to heavy snowfall (above is the view of the 1960 Olympic facilities, as seen from Squaw's slopes).

A game at Squaw could pit the perpertual contender San Jose Sharks versus pretty much anyone and be a treat to watch.

Another idea: build a temporary stadium in Mammoth Lakes; the giant Vons parking lot provides an easily accessible staging area or bleachers could be erected around the town's already nice outdoor rink near the library.

Even if the area is deemed too remote for a Winter Classic game, the Ducks and Kings could play a pre-season or regular season game there. It would be good for the town's tourism efforts -- particularly in the autumn before ski season -- and drive up interest in So Cal hockey.

There are also numerous ski resorts in the Colorado Rockies that have large parking lots where temporary hockey stadiums could be built. The Buttermilk ski area near Aspen has hosted numerous Winter X Games and would be one logical spot. So would Keystone village, which is much closer to Denver.

Yes, the number of seats would be limited compared to a baseball or football stadium. But the setting would look great on television and the NHL could always schedule multiple games -- a pro game, college game, etc. to give a lot of different people a chance to watch outdoor hockey.

--Steve Hymon

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