The NHL put on its fifth Winter Classic on Monday, and as far as the actual game went, it was the best. The New York Rangers defeated the host Flyers, 3-2, at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies.
The goaltending was phenomenal. The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist showed why he’s one of the best in the business. He stopped Danny Briere’s penalty shot with 19.6 seconds left to preserve the victory.
There was even a local hero in Monday’s game. Local for me, anyway. The Rangers’ Mike Rupp scored two straight goals after the Flyers’ had a 2-0 lead. Rupp is a Cleveland native who played his youth hockey in Parma Heights and won two state championships while playing at St. Edward. Rupp played in last year’s Winter Classic as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Obviously, with events like these, the actual game isn’t the big story. Former stars from both teams played in the Alumni Game on New Year’s Eve. Hall of Famers Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Glenn Anderson suited up for the Rangers against former Flyers greats Jeremy Roenick, Eric Lindros and John LeClair. Philadelphia’s Bernie Parent, at 66 years old, started in goal and stopped all five shots he faced in his five minutes of ice time. That’s just incredible to me.
The ballpark will also host an AHL game on Jan. 6 between the Adirondack Phantoms (formerly Philadelphia Phantoms) and the Hershey Bears. All three games had over 40,000 tickets sold.
Talk has already begun for next year’s Classic, with Detroit being the rumored host. It’s clearly the right choice. An Original Six team, the Red Wings are the perfect team to take on the event. But where would the game be played? Ford Field is dome, so that’s out of the question. Comerica Park seems to be the only viable choice, and it’s a good one. I’ve heard a lot about the Big House in Ann Arbor. A Red Wings game there would set all sorts of attendance records, for sure, but that doesn’t make any money for the city of Detroit. It’s a pretty tough call. It’s a shame the Blue Jackets aren’t relevant. The ‘Shoe would be a great location for a hockey game.
If Detroit does, in fact, host the 2013 Winter Classic, who will be the Wings’ opponent? The easy choices are Chicago or Toronto. Both are Original Six teams with huge fan bases and would make it the game a great historical event. I want to go in a different direction. I’m extremely biased in this thought, since I grew up a huge fan, but I want to see the Colorado Avalanche in Detroit on Jan. 1, 2013. The Wings and Avs had some fantastic playoff series, facing off five times in seven postseasons from 1996-2002, many of which were bloodbaths.
The NHL got it right with the Winter Classic, and it’s getting better with each passing year.