Fresh Air: Wild To Host '21 NHL Winter Classic At Target Field
The Wild will host the '21 NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Target Field, though "no opponent has been selected yet," according to Sarah McLellan of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement yesterday during the second intermission of NBC's broadcast of this year's Winter Classic between the Predators and Stars. After visiting Target Field in '18 while "mulling" the '20 decision, league officials made another tour in early '19 and "noticed improvements to the facility." Still, it "wasn't until late December" that Wild Owner Craig Leipold learned the team's bid was successful -- this after the "team and some of its corporate partners made a push." For the league, what made Target Field "appealing was its intimacy," as seating capacity for the game is "expected to be around 39,000" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/2).
MONEY TALK: THE ATHLETIC's Michael Russo noted there is "obviously a huge revenue drop-off" from playing the Winter Classic inside the 39,000-seat ballpark as opposed to the 85,630 fans at yesterday's game at the Cotton Bowl. So, the NHL and Wild's partners "needed to brainstorm all sorts of ideas that would make up for that lost revenue by coming up with a weeklong Winter Festival rather than just one single outdoor hockey game." The timing of the Wild's "victorious bid" also "coincides perfectly" with the team's 20th anniversary next season (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/1).
LONG TIME COMING: In St. Paul, Dane Mizutani writes for the Wild, hosting next season's Winter Classic is a "culmination of many years of hard work, as they have been yearning to host" the event since its inception in '08. Wild President Matt Majka said, "At the time we were lobbying for a Winter Classic they wanted certain things out of teams. They want a winning team. They want stars on the team. They want TV ratings. There were some things we were still developing at the time and then over the past number of years we have developed those things." On who the opponent will be, Majka said that the NHL is "looking for a team that will travel well with its fans and has a longstanding rivalry with the Wild" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/2). ESPN.com's Greg Wyshynski noted the Blues "appear to be the front-runner to face the Wild," after having won their franchise's first Stanley Cup last season. The Jets are the "closest opponent geographically," but only two Canadian teams have ever appeared in the Winter Classic -- the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens. Bettman said of who will play the Wild, "Let the speculation begin." He added, "It's not a one-shot decision based on one factor. We look at a whole host of things: rivalries, who's playing well, geography. Will some teams travel better than others to a particular market" (ESPN.com, 1/1).