One of the National Hockey League’s best rivalries will go into the elements on Monday, January 2, 2017. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, on Wednesday night, announced that the St. Louis Blues will play outdoors for the first time in franchise history, hosting the long-time rival Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.
The home of the MLB Cardinals, featuring a view of the iconic Gateway Arch just northeast of the stadium, will be transformed into a winter wonderland, with the rink expected to be placed between the left field corner and the first-base line. The Blackhawks, Stanley Cup champions in three of the past six seasons, will be appearing in the Winter Classic for the third time, and fifth time in an outdoor setting overall. The game in St. Louis will be played on Monday, January 2nd, instead of the normal New Year’s Day, as the NHL, when January 1st is a Sunday, has been hesitant to schedule events head-to-head with the National Football League.
Blues Chairman Tom Stillman was anticipating St. Louis hosting a Stadium Series game, but that changed when the NFL’s Rams left for Los Angeles in January, as Stillman said that disappointment brought Commissioner Bettman’s positive view of St. Louis as a sports market into clearer focus.
Also on Wednesday night, the NHL announced that ancient rivals Toronto and Detroit will meet in the “Centennial Classic” at BMO Field in Toronto on New Year’s Day, with the Leafs and Wings, two “Original Six” franchises, helping to ring in the 100th year of the NHL. The Pittsburgh Penguins, on February 18th, will host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Steelers home stadium, Heinz Field, in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. In another outdoor game involving two of the seven Canadian-based franchises in the NHL, the Winnipeg Jets will host the Edmonton Oilers in the Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field (the home of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers) on October 23rd.