Rumor Mill Already Turning for 2011 Winter Classic

Rumor Mill Already Turning for 2011 Winter Classic The first Winter Classic took place at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, but with last year’s at Wrigley Field and the 2010 game at Fenway Park, there appears to be a trend with ballparks.

The intertwining of old-school, historical ballparks and hockey seems to be a natural fit with the NHL bringing the game back to its outdoor roots. So one has to wonder if that trend continue and in which ballpark the 2011 Winter Classic might take place.

Well, the NHL does a great job of keeping the Winter Classic locations secret from the media and public, but there have been plenty of rumors and speculation that the new Yankee Stadium was a strong candidate for the 2010 Winter Classic. Those plans fell through, but could the home of the 2009 World Series Champions be hosting next year?

Following the announcement that Fenway Park would host the 2010 Winter Classic, Newsday and various other outlets reported that the NHL was in discussions with representatives from the Rangers and Yankees to hold the 2011 game there, and rumors circulated that the Rangers would host Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals. There was also talk that the Islanders could play the Rangers, taking one of the league’s fiercest rivalries outdoors.

Sources tell NESN.com that the former is more likely to happen but that the discussions are still in the brainstorming phase. But where there’s smoke, there is usually fire, and there’s a good chance the Bronx Bombers and Rangers could be teaming up to host the 2011 Winter Classic. But if not, where else could the NHL turn?

If they want to keep the baseball theme going, they could look at the soon-to-be-opened Target Field in Minneapolis, which will be the new home of the Minnesota Twins next season. The Minnesota Wild are a staple in the “State Of Hockey” and there is plenty of shinny played there.

Recently, there’s been a cry for Canadian teams to participate in the Winter Classic, so maybe the Wild’s Northwest Division rival, the Vancouver Canucks, could be a good sell as an opponent? Having superstar goalie Roberto Luongo between the pipes wouldn’t hurt either.

Speaking of Canadian teams, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at the recent Board of Governors meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif., that the idea of a second outdoor game with two Canadian teams had also been discussed and is a possibility in the future.

"It's something we're going to look at for next season," Bettman said at the meetings. "We'll see if we can make that happen."

Canadians forward Mike Cammalleri recently expressed his desire for such an event to happen and suggested the Maple Leafs play the Canadiens or Bruins at Molson Stadium, the home of the defending Grey Cup Champion Montreal Alouettes.

"Think you could sell tickets to one of those?" Cammalleri joked with NESN.com. "I don’t know where they could do it, maybe McGill Stadium? But that would be awesome, for sure."

The opportunities are endless for this Winter Classic, as it appears to now be not only a must-see event for hockey fans but also the average sports fan.

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NESN.com's James Murphy will be answering one Winter Classic question each day leading up to the event on Jan. 1.

Wednesday, Dec. 23: What was the NHL's marketing strategy for this year's Classic?

Friday, Dec. 25: Is Winter Classic apparel from Reebok flying off the shelves?

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