The NHL formally announced on Monday that next year’s Winter Classic would be held in Seattle; featuring the Kraken hosting the Vegas Golden Knights. It will be a matchup of the league’s two most recent expansion teams, which means the league will now have just three teams who have never played in an outdoor game: The Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and Columbus Blue Jackets. Today we’ll explore what it might take to get the Jackets into one of these games.
Obviously, the Winter Classic – or any stadium series game – is something every team in the NHL would love to host. It brings something new, a fresh way to see an NHL game, typically with huge capacity that brings big revenue. But to get to host one of these events, you need one very important thing: an outdoor venue.
I know what everyone’s thinking: Ohio Stadium is an outdoor venue. It’s historic, it would make an excellent backdrop, and we could fill the stadium with over 100k screaming Jacket fans. I have to admit, it would be a magical environment to see a hockey game. I’ve only been to one Buckeye game in my lifetime, but it’s something I’ll never forget – the stadium alone leaves a big impression. Imagine a New Years Day hockey game at this beauty:
But it’s been made clear that the Ohio State University isn’t really open to sharing the stadium for such an event. Blame old plumbing, blame stubbornness – it doesn’t really matter because as things stand, it isn’t going to happen. It’s their playground, and they don’t want anyone else’s kids playing on it.
There is a second option here: Lower.com Field, home stadium for the Columbus Crew. This is something I brought up early in the summer, when everyone was getting upset about OSU AD Gene Smith bringing up the old plumbing at the Ohio Stadium. Lower.com Field has some serious positives on its side: it’s just a short distance away from Nationwide, which means the league could use the entire Arena District as its backdrop for an outdoor game.
Imagine spending the morning at the RBar, meeting up with many of your closest fellow Jacket fans, and having a march over to LDC Field for puck drop. The design of the stadium would look pretty neat with a hockey rink in the middle as well.
The only downside I can see to this idea, is that the stadium seats just 20,371. While that’s a full 2,000 more people than you get in a typical Nationwide sellout, is that enough to make an outdoor game worth it for the NHL? It’s hard to say. But, I do think the atmosphere would be incredible, and if done right, it could become one of the more memorable outdoor games.