The joke around the Panthers locker room when the Winter Classic comes around is always the same: When is Florida going to get one?
It's a joke, of course, because the Winter Classic is an outdoor game. Where you going to play? Joe Robbie Stadium? On rollerblades?
Guess what kids? I think South Florida could actually get one of these outdoor games in the next decade.
And you can thank the Marlins for this even being a consideration (and there is no evidence this IS under any kind of consideration).
One of the big draws of Marlins Park at the Orange Bowl is the retractable roof. Not only will that be great for summertime rainstorms, but for concerts and conventions and such.
It could also be good for outdoor hockey.
Think about it: There are only a few places you can hold the Winter Classic. Baseball parks up north (Yankee/Shea Stadium, Busch Stadium, the new Twins Park, SkyDome, etc.) and college football stadiums not being used. The NHL started this New Year's Day tradition in the Bills' football stadium, but because it takes so much time to set up the ice, they want to stay away from NFL parks what with scheduling issues and all.
So, let's say there are about eight good places you can put this game in the coming years. Maybe more, but lets say eight for now. They are going to be looking for unique places to hold the game. Don't you think an outdoor hockey game in MIAMI would bring a ton of national and international attention to the game? For sure it would.
And with the roof, it could work. You close the roof at the stadium and turn on the AC. You put down the rink two weeks before the game, get a good ice sheet going. Then, you open up the roof for a few hours. If it's too hot the day before, you keep it closed for practice, opening it up only for the game. Even if it was a day like today, a good sheet of ice could keep if only for a few hours of hockey.
Sure, it would take away from the Winter Wonderland that the Winter Classic has become -- and doesn't Fenway look awesome today? -- but that would be cool.
Hockey with a Little Havana flair.
Let's do this.
-- So, where else could the Winter Classic go? There are plenty of CFL stadiums that could host the game, but with NBC wanting to keep the game in the States, unless there are two classics a year, you can bet only Toronto's SkyDome and a roofless Olympic Stadium in Montreal have a realistic chance of hosting one.
One of the two ballparks in New York -- Yankees Stadium gets the edge for coolness, but the new Gotham Bowl* there could send New York's game to Queens -- will probably get next year's game. That or Minnesota's new outdoor (and idiotically roofless) ballpark.
Because of the technoligical advances in making ice, you could also play the game in California (San Fran's Giants Park comes to mind, although rain would mess it up) or Las Vegas' college football stadium.
The Blues could host at the Cardinals park, and Chicago could make a bid for a second game -- this time on the South Side. You also could put a game in a Big Ten stadium (Ohio, Michigan, Penn State, etc.) since they don't play host to bowl games.
I still say putting the Capitals in Baltimore's Camden Yards would be awesome. Great park, only an hour from Washington and Philly. And it would be cool to see a non-NHL market jam 50,000 into a ballpark to see a game.
Coors Field in Denver, Detroit's Comerica Field are obviously other potential future sites. Going back to Baltimore, I could also see Seattle's Safeco Field getting a game down the road.
I also read a story in Pittsburgh suggesting next year's game be played at Mellon Arena. A roofless Mellon Arena. Kind of cool. That arena was built to open up but they don't know if the roof will open anymore and if it did, whether they could close it. So that suggestion was let the Pens finish out the season at the Igloo, then move to their new arena for next season. With the Pens out of there, you could do whatever you want with the roof and then play the final Pens game there under the open sky on Jan. 1, 2011. After that game, blow 'er up.
I don't see that happening, although I'm sure the NHL would consider that before they would consider the Panthers-Lightning Classic in Miami.
(*) -- Yes Yankee Stadium is going to host a bowl game, pitting a team from the Big East and Big 12 starting next season. Old Yankee Stadium played host to the Gotham Bowl back in the 1960s. Your Hurricanes lost to Nebraska there. A little bit o' trivia for you. For free, as usual.
-- And I got $1.50 saying Jerry Jones would love to put this game in the new Cowboys Stadium. But is it feasible? Yeah, but it would be tricky what with the NFL schedule and all. But I wouldn't be surprised to see this barn thrown in the mix. Maybe the Cotton Bowl in Dallas? The Cotton Bowl game has moved to the Cowboys Stadium so maybe...
-- South Florida was loosely represented at this year's Winter Classic.
Honorary captains Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke have ties to this area as Orr not only is the agent for Nathan Horton, but lives in north Palm Beach County and often attends Panthers games. Clarke, you may recall, was the first GM of the expansion Florida Panthers.
Also, the NHL's Mark Fischel, who used to work for the Panthers, is part of the league's event crew putting on today's game.
And let's not forget Red Sox owner John Henry still has a home in South Florida after trading in the Marlins a few years back.
Extremely local folks. That's On Frozen Pond.
-- Speaking of local coverage, the Florida Panthers were back on the ice today in Coral Springs. Coach Pete DeBoer didn't do much work with the team, instead he split them up into teams and had them play a little 3-on-3 game. They had fun with it. It was a nice way to get on the ice after New Year's Eve and get the legs going, work up a sweat.
A few guys didn't participate (Bryan Allen, Radek Dvorak) but that was just so they could get some rest. Pete said nothing serious.
No other real news. Writing a piece on Keith Ballard for tomorrow's Herald. He had one hell of a good game last night.