Yesterday, the NHL announced to the media the locations and dates of next season’s outdoors games.
Next season will be the centennial for the league and it’s only fitting that the oldest franchise, the Toronto Maple Leafs, should host at least one of the games.
On Jan. 1, 2017, instead of hosting the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the Leafs will celebrate the first 100 years in the Centennial Classic against fellow Original Six rival in the Detroit Red Wings at BMO Field, the home of Toronto FC soccer club.
According to NHL.com and Sportsnet, commissioner Gary Bettman was allegedly insistent on Toronto being the city to host a “tentpole event” next season.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have this matchup and to have our Centennial Classic be in Toronto,” Bettman said. “We’re going to be using this game as the jumping-off point, there will be a lot of pageantry around the fact that we’re 100 years old and we’re really proud of it.”
Instead of the usual New Year’s Day schedule, the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, will take place on Jan. 2, 2017. It will be matchup of two Central Division rivals in the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.
The Blues will host the annual game at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Blues will be playing in their first outdoor game, whereas, the Blackhawks will be playing in their fifth outdoor game, their third in the Winter Classic, going 1-3 in that stretch in outdoors games: their only victory coming against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field, in Chicago.
“We’re delighted that, during our Centennial year, the great fans in St. Louis can host the first outdoor meeting of these two Central Division neighbors, who are separated by fewer than 300 miles and are unified by 50 years of an outstanding hockey rivalry,” Bettman said.
The next outdoor game after that will take place on Feb. 18, will be the Coors Light Stadium Series. Touted as the “Battle of PA” by Penguins.com, the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.
Heinz Field becomes the second venue to host two outdoor games, the other being Yankee Stadium, that hosted two Stadium Series games, when the New York Rangers took on the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
After next season, 23 of the 30 NHL teams will have taken part in some sort of outdoor game. The only teams that remain are a few Canadian teams and teams in warmer climates.
“All in all, we think there’s going to be a lot for our fans to get excited about and to celebrate,” Commissioner Bettman said.