Penguins Q&A: Rob Rossi Answers Your Questions
Rossi, Rob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review Penguins writer Rob Rossi answers questions about the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Q: How realistic is it to expect an outdoor game between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers at Beaver Stadium before the winter is over? Is it something in the works or just a rumor? Brrr, bring it on!
- William Corbin of Huntingdon, Pa.
A: Frankly, I am surprised I did not receive more questions regarding future outdoor games. Though, many of the fine readers have asked about the absence of the national anthem, and I will respond to those questions as soon as I hear from the league.
Let me get this straight: Penguins against Flyers in Happy Valley for Winter Classic II?
Not going to happen this year, though I think Mr. Corbin probably did not mean to suggest as much.
I would be shocked if it happened next year, given that the Penguins remain 99-percent sure they will open the season with a two- game series against Ottawa in Stockholm, Sweden. I cannot imagine the league would force the Penguins to play overseas and in an outdoor game, too; talk about a competitive disadvantage!
Here is what I know from various chats with league and team officials: The Winter Classic was a smashing success, in terms of attendance, merchandise sales and, most important, national TV ratings. The league is looking into the possibility of another outdoor game soon, maybe even New Year's Day 2009.
However, despite the perceived draw of Sidney Crosby that the Penguins would bring to the game, it is unlikely they would participate again so soon. As one national NHL scribe told me inside the Ralph Wilson Stadium press box: "There are other guys not named Crosby this league has to sell, too."
I agree with that statement. My suggestions:
Jan. 1, 2009: New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens at Yankee Stadium. It would be impossible for the national U.S. press to avoid this game if it is the Bronx. New York is an event town, first, and this game would be a great way to send off a beloved facility. Include the Canadiens, who are the NHL's version of the Yankees, for not only historical purposes, but to involve Canada in the outdoor fun. NBC ratings would better the 2008 Winter Classic, I bet.
Jan. 1, 2010: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington Capitals at the Washington Nationals' new ballpark. The rivalry between the Flyers and Caps is not great, but Philly fans might get stoked for an outdoor game against a team from Washington, give the long-standing rivalry between those cities' NFL clubs.
Plus, the league needs to better promote Capitals' star Alex Ovechkin, who is the game's best pure goal-scorer and most charismatic young gun. Washington has never been a great hockey town, but maybe that can change for just one day?
Jan. 1, 2011: Detroit Red Wings vs. Minnesota Wild at the new outdoor football home for the University of Minnesota football team. The so-called Hockeytown against the self-titled State of Hockey would bring the outdoor action to the Midwest. It would also sell out in about 10 minutes, and go a long way toward establishing a New Year's Day outdoors hockey game as a holiday tradition.
Jan. 1, 2012: Los Angeles Kings vs. Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. If there is a better winter outdoor setting anywhere in the United States than the homes of the NFL's Patriots, let me know; I cannot find one. There would be snow and wind and all the elements Mother Nature could provide. The result would be made-for-TV scenes. There would also be an entire region, New England, interested. The involvement of Los Angeles would bring a west-coast team into the fold, and make an outdoor game truly a national event.
Jan. 1, 2013: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Penguins at Heinz Field. Imagine the possibilities: The best traveling fans in hockey, those from Toronto, attempting to fill the home of the NFL's most popular franchise, the Steelers, to battle a team that could possibly be the NHL's newest dynasty, the Penguins, with the background story of possibly Crosby's final year in Pittsburgh. …