St. Louis as a Possible Winter Classic Venue?
The NHL announced today that next year's Winter Classic will be an Original Six meeting between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. 'The Big House', as it is commonly referred, to can hold around 110, 000 people.
Is it too far of a stretch to consider that the St. Louis Blues could be hosting an upcoming Winter Classic? Although there are many factors to consider, we will take a quick glance on whether placing the game in Missouri would work out and could become a feasible option.
First and foremost there needs to be enough fans, and not just enough fans but a competitive environment for tickets for the whole event to be successful. So far through the 2011-12 season the Blues have the 9th best home attendance record in the NHL.
According to the NHL attendance report on ESPN they are bringing in an average of 18,755 people per game. Although this is not quite selling out the 19,150 seating capacity of the Scottrade Centre, it is enough to put them higher up the rankings than teams such as Pittsburgh and Buffalo, who have both hosted the event in the past.
So it would seem that the Blues garner enough interest from their fan base to be competitive in selling tickets, and the fact that they are a team on the rise. If they keep playing hockey that keeps them in the top of the Western conference you can only assume that the Scottrade Centre will soon be hitting capacity.
St. Louis should be one of the next places considered by the NHL to host the annual Winter Classic game.
St Louis also has the opportunity to draw fans from other cities around them. They are within a driving distance from Indianapolis (820, 000 pop.), Memphis (646, 000 pop.), Nashville (545, 000 pop.) and Kansas City (459, 000 pop.). Although these are all not necessarily large hockey markets, you can only expect that from each a fair share of interest will be held. As for Kansas City, it would be a prime time for the NHL to see how much interest there is in this market that has long been considered a front runner for an NHL franchise.
St. Louis is also only a three hour drive from Peoria, where the Blues minor league AHL team the Peoria Rivermen play. The NHL and AHL could team up on this one and have the Rivermen also be included in the festivities. This would allow the other main hockey team of the Blues organization to become part of the action and bring in fans from that market.
The other thing that would need to be seriously considered would be the setting in which the game could be played. The NHL seems to not care much about the venue being a football stadium or a baseball field, as they have flipped and flopped between the two since the Winter Classic's inception. Either way, it does not matter to the Blues as they have two possible options that they could play with.
The best option in my opinion would be to play in Busch Stadium, home of the MLB's St. Louis Cardinals. It's a perfect spot to play and can hold 46, 000 people. This fits in too comparison with the other times the Classic was held at a ball park. Wrigley in Chicago had 40, 818, Fenway in Boston had 38, 112 and the most recent one this year at Citizens Bank in Philadelphia had an attendance of 46,967 people.
Busch Stadium provides the best opportunity for a close to home Winter Classic in St. Louis.
There is also an option to move the game outside of the St. Louis area by a two hour drive and hold it in Columbia, at the University of Missouri football field. The field itself can fit 71, 000 people. This would provide a lot more opportunity for seats to be filled but may be to large for this market to fill. If this was the case they would need a lot of help from other cities to help support the selling of tickets, like Kansas City as it brings the game closer to them, and also possibly a large market team to play against.
If size is what the NHL is looking for, there is no better place for the Winter Classic than at the University of Missouri football field.
(Sarah E.M. Becking)
Above all else for the NHL the biggest reason for concern to bring the game to St. Louis would be the TV ratings. However, this all depends on what team is chosen to play againest them. Obviously the NHL has a solid 10 teams or so that it relies on heavily for an extra boost in the game. These include the Leafs, Penguins, Bruins, Flyers and Hawks among others.
So we can only expect these main teams to be participating in every Winter Classic or every other one, than the perfect situation would be for the Blues to face off against the Hawks. This is a classic rivalry and also allows for the chance that a very large fan base from Chicago would make the trip down to St. Louis to watch the game. With Chicago in the mix there is also a much better chance that the ratings would skyrocket for the game as they are one of the most popular teams nowadays.
Imagine Al MacInnis lacing them up again in a 'Classic' Blues sweater
(David E. Klutho)
Just think about the roster for the alumni game as well, assuming everyone played. Imagine a line up of the Blues greats of late. Curtis Joesph back in between the pipes tending the net, Al MacInnis teeing them up from the blue line and Brett Hull with his one timers. What a great thing it would be to see these greats who once played in a Blues uniform coming back to play in front of the fans that supported them while they played there.
In the end, the Blues are in the top third of teams in the NHL in average attendance, have multiple options on where the game could be played and most importantly are finally a team that is coming into their own with a fan base that is dying for the Blues to succeed. Although a Winter Classic may be years away, or never for that matter, St. Louis should be considered as a possible venue at the very least.