Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Put the Winter Classic in the Yosemite Valley, so says me

Not that anyone asked me -- they never do -- but I'm weary of reading about how the Winter Classic is going to be in the Pittsburgh Steeler's stadium this coming New Year's Day and how it's going to be in various other baseball and football stadiums in the future.


As I wrote last year, if the NHL had some cajones, they'd put the game in a mountain or ski town in some kind of temporary stadium built of bleachers. I still think a Kings-Ducks game in Mammoth Lakes would be a monster hit here in California, but I also think the world is ripe with other opportunities.

So please allow me to throw one longshot out there: a Winter Classic in Yosemite Valley.

Yes, that Yosemite Valley. The one that's a national park.

If Ken Burns or John Muir's ghost is reading this and just died (or re-died) of a heart attack, I suggest chilling out. It's only a blog post.

Yes, the above photo makes the Yosemite Valley look pristine, but it's not. In fact, it's often a big traffic filled mess.

The far end of the Valley, for example, boasts a couple of parking lots worthy of a Walmart, an upper crust hotel that charges more than $400 per night, a second hotel for the Little People like you and me, as well as a tourist village, several campgrounds to serve the monster RV crowd and a couple of large tent-cabin villages that bring to mind the phrase "sub-Saharan refugee camp."

So -- if you are an environmentalist (and I am) don't go screaming at me for proposing a hockey game in a sacred place, given that Yosemite also has a permanent ski resort in the high country and a regular ice rink in the Yosemite Valley during the winter. 

In fact, a game in Yosemite could be greenwashed with a few simple steps, such as arranging bus transportation on the day of the game for the majority of fans. And it's not like a game requires a monster temporary stadium -- the smaller, the better. A lottery can be held for a lucky few fans and the rest of us get to ogle something spectacular via television.

And why would the park consider doing this? A nice big injection of cash into the park's coffers. The maintenance backlog at our national parks has been well-chronicled in the press for years. 

Yes, the chance of this happening hovers around zero. But my put-a-game-in-a-ski-town idea is a good one and it's not like it has to be an NHL game. College or minor league hockey would do just nicely as a way to give the public a taste of hockey in a grand setting. A lottery can also be held to allow some lucky youth teams and beer league teams a chance to play in Yosemite/mountain town -- giving the sport a great publicity boost that could increase participation.

Putting aside Yosemite, there are some other outstanding candidates for an outdoor game. Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Steamboat, Whitefish (Mont.), Lake Louise and Tahoe all come to mind. South Lake Tahoe, in particular, is basically a shithole of a town in a lovely setting -- and a game of ourdoor hockey is hardly going to make it any uglier.

--Steve Hymon

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