2013 Notre Dame Stadium ( Picture courtesy of Stadium.nd.edu)
Today’s announcement of Michigan Stadium hosting the 2014 Winter Classic was not a big shocker. The Red Wings and Maple Leafs were scheduled to play the 2013 Winter Classic before Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman played chicken and almost lost the entire 2013 season to the lockout. The Classic going to the Big House will be a big deal and the Winter Classic is the most watched regular season game of the year if you exclude Blackhawks breaking streaks games. There has been rumors of multiple outdoor games but the NHL should learn the lesson that too much of something ruins the greatness and majesty of an event. The 2015 Winter Classic is an unknown which is why Notre Dame Stadium and the Chicago Blackhawks should host the game.
The Blackhawks already hosted the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field and although Soldier Field which just hosted a college hockey event would be a good venue, the Notre Dame Stadium would make a great venue.
The first reason Notre Dame Stadium should host the Winter Classic is the relationship NBC Sports already has with Notre Dame football. Could you imagine the amount of commercials and advertising the NHL could put on during the 6 or 7 telecasts NBC exclusively has with Notre Dame football. Of all the college teams in the country Notre Dame has the biggest following and probably the biggest hatred of all the schools out there. This would lead to bigger ratings with the tie-in all fall long with the football team. Notre Dame has legends from Knute Rockne to the Four Horseman to the Rocket. Of all the great legends the most popular movie about the Irish has to be about Rudy and trying to get to play on the field of Notre Dame Stadium. How exciting would it be to see NHL hockey and the Chicago Blackhawks on the fabled football field.
Another reason is the Blackhawks are basically a household names thanks to the streak. Thanks to the Streak, people not only in Chicago but around the country tuned in to Chicago Blackhawks hockey, because people from everywhere were watching to see history in the making. While they were watching the names of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane though maybe vaguely familiar oustside of Chicago, became very familiar after the constant media coverage. NBC while being able to show any team they want knowing the Winter Classic gets great viewership and ratings should want to ride the momentum from the shortened season and the streak to show an exciting team with young starts that people recognize across the country. Yes, they could play the game in New York or Montreal but having the Blackhawks with the national attention they already have had this season would be a great carry over for NBC.
One of the pretty cool parts of the announcement of this year’s game is the throwback jersey’s the teams will be wearing for the contest. Of course if you play the game in Vancouver, the Canucks can throwback some real ugly brown and yellow jerseys, but having the Hawks in the game with a franchise that dates back to the 1920’s there are a lot of throw back jerseys that they could wear and the NHL could capitalize one and sell for the contest and the rest of the year.
The only other question would be the opponent for the game. With the realignment package starting next season, any franchise could be selected thanks to the home and home every team will play against each team in the NHL. Even though Detroit and Toronto would be good teams to choose I would suggest having the Hawks play the Montreal Canadians so that the game is an original 6 match-up with the third biggest market in the U.S and a Canadian flagship team that would connect all of Canada to the game as well as the US. Granted you could make it a Boston or Rangers game as well, but having a Montreal vs Chicago Winter Classic would be a fantastic match-up for the NHL and still would have Canada buzzing about it as well.
There you have it NHL, Montreal vs Chicago at Notre Dame Stadium January 1, 2015, now Gary make it happen!