Will the State of Hockey host an NHL Winter Classic in the coming years?
Nothing is certain, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in the Twin Cities on Monday and he met with Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, who showcased TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field in his continued effort to convince Bettman that Minnesota is the ideal place to host an outdoor hockey game.
“Craig has been discussing with me the possibility of playing a stadium game for a long time and we discussed it again today,” Bettman said, according to the Star Tribune. “It’s something we know the club wants, that Craig wants and the fans want, and we’ll be responsive. I can’t give you a date or a venue yet. … The fans, the hockey environment, the weather, this is the State of Hockey after all … “We’re very focused on Minnesota.”
The Winter Classic is the NHL's marquee outdoor affair, but the 2015 Winter Classic has already been awarded to Washington D.C., so if the Wild were to host an outdoor game next season it would have to be part of the "Stadium Series."
Six outdoor NHL games were played this season. Los Angeles hosted the Winter Classic while Chicago, Vancouver, New York and Ann Arbor, Michigan hosted Stadium Series games. New York also hosted the Heritage Classic at Yankee Stadium. Chicago played its game at Soldier Field while the game in Ann Arbor was at the "Big House" – home to Michigan Wolverines football.
The game in Chicago was last weekend, and the Blackhawks buried the Penguins 5-1 while heavy snow fell from the sky.
Will Minnesota be awarded a Stadium Series game next season?
"I'm not making any promises, I'm not making any announcements," Bettman said, via the Pioneer Press. "But we're focused on the interest."
There's no question the interest lies within the local fan base. More than 45,000 people attended the Hockey City Classic featuring the Gophers men's and women's hockey teams at TCF Bank Stadium in January.
It was the largest attendance ever for a hockey game in Minnesota.