Dodgers president Stan Kasten proposed the idea of hosting the Jan. 1 game at iconic Dodger Stadium with the San Gabriel Mountains providing the scenic backdrop.
While it may seem crazy to drop the NHL’s marquee midseason event into the land of palm trees and Baywatch, the game could work in a warm-weather locale.
The Kings and Rangers played an outdoor exhibition game at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas back in 1991, and Wayne Gretzky and the boys didn’t drown in the melted ice. With two more decades of technological improvements, it would certainly be possible to make acceptable outdoor ice in L.A. now.
The issue isn’t a matter of climate, but of timing. I’ve long thought that a warm-weather Winter Classic was all but inevitable, and it would be a welcome change of pace at some point. But it’s too early in the event’s run to consider it now.
The Winter Classic hasn’t lost any of its luster yet. If anything, it continues to grow in popularity, and there is no shortage of venues yet to try to keep that chilly charm for the foreseeable future. Before the NHL looks for some New Year’s beachfront property, there are still ski lodges in Colorado to explore, not to mention Target Field in frigid Minnesota or even the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field if the league is willing to look outside of its immediate markets.
Yankee Stadium is unavailable for now due to a commitment to a college football bowl game, but that remains a site the NHL is sure to use at some point. Giants Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field could be options if the league wants to hit the Big Apple sooner. The Flyers and Penguins have each already hosted a Winter Classic, but a Keystone Clash at Penn State could still happen, or how about a return to the Boston area with a game at Gillette Stadium?
Washington D.C., Columbus (the Horseshoe at Ohio State anyone?), St. Louis and a trek north of the border to Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal (Edmonton and Calgary have already hosted Heritage Classics) could work as well.
So there’s no need to rush to a warm-weather site. That could be perfect in a decade or so if the event starts to get a bit stale. Then a “Winter Classic in the Tropics” theme could be perfect, whether it be in Los Angeles, Miami, Tampa or even Phoenix if the league is still trying to keep that market alive.
So Kasten isn’t wrong that the Winter Classic could work at Dodger Stadium. He’s just a little ahead of time. LA fans, be patient, enjoy the Cup Final and give it a few years, and the Winter Classic and Hollywood just might be a perfect combination.