Sean Leahy of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy reviewed the just released NFL schedule to determine which potential NHL Winter Classic sites would be open on New Year's Day 2012.
Here's what he found:
We know that the NHL needs at least seven days to prepare the venue and build the rink. That immediately knocks out places such as the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and Wysh's dream, Lambeau Field in Wisconsin, as those venues are hosting NFL games on Jan. 1.
Yankee Stadium, once again, is out because they will be in Year 2 of their four-year agreement to host the Pinstripe Bowl. You would think when New York hosts a Winter Classic either Yankee Stadium or potentially New Meadowlands would be the venue. CitiField in Queens doesn't have the marketability of a Yankee Stadium or the 80,000-plus seating capacity.
That leaves venues like "The Big House" and Spartan Stadium in Michigan, Beaver Stadium at Penn State and Soldier Field in Chicago among the favorites for the 2012 Winter Classic in our eyes. The college regular season ends in late-November, giving the NHL adequate time to prepare the stadium and get the rink setup and the Chicago Bears play in Minnesota on Jan. 1, leaving the possibility of the Blackhawks being involved in another outdoor game.
The Red Wings' Hockeytown Blog takes this thought one step further:
With Pittsburgh and Washington having played in the game in 2011, one must imagine that Heinz Field, FedEx Field, and Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley would be out of the mix. Chicago’s Soldier Field is not being used, but with Wrigley Field hosting the game in 2009, it would be hard to expect such a quick return.
Of course, we’re simply speculating, but between Michigan Stadium, Comerica Park, an original six club, and a strong DMA TV market, the idea of spending the start of 2012 outdoors isn’t too far fetched.
In my mind, the fact that Pittsburgh played in this year's Winter Classic doesn't knock out Beaver Stadium because there's still the Philadelphia Flyers to consider. That said, here's hoping that the Red Wings get the nod to host the event and that U-M and the NHL come to an agreement to use Michigan Stadium. If they do, I assume they'll develop contingency plans for battery depleted ticket reading machines this time.