The New York Rangers will square off against the arch rival Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 installment of the NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park where the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team calls home. However unlike the previous four games, it is to be played on January 2nd and not New Year’s Day. This will be the first time the Rangers play in this game and the Flyers lost in overtime to the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park in 2010. New York actually played an outdoor game in the 1991 preseason, a 5-2 loss against the Los Angeles Kings.
According to CSNphilly.com, the Flyers organization wanted to host the game at Lincoln Financial Field, hope of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. That makes perfect sense because the Linc holds nearly 26,000 more people. However, the Eagles are scheduled to face the Washington Redskins on New Year’s Day. It would be a herculean task for a team to setup an outside hockey rink after a football game, which could be chosen as a flex game for Sunday night, which would make it even more impossible. This can all be put to rest if the NFL lockout isn’t lifted, but we’re all assuming that it will be and the football game will happen. The game is a day after New Years’ so it doesn’t have to go head-to-head with NFL Sundays on television.
The Flyers had a disappointing run in this year’s playoffs, getting swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals after reaching the Stanley Cup Finals the season before. The Rangers needed a late surge on the final weekend of the regular season to reach postseason play, only to be quickly disposed of by the Washington Capitals. Both teams, organizations, fan bases, and cities hate each other, which makes it a great pick by the league to play in this game.
Philly has a boatload of talent returning with top scorers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Claude Giroux is a rising superstar and Chris Pronger is a monster on the blue-line. The Rangers are expected to be an improved team with improving health and a bunch of younger players with another season under their belts. It’ll be interesting to see what ensues during the offseason with these two teams with some players for the Flyers needed to be re-signed and the Rangers having a little flexibility to sign a free agent.
At first, I didn’t like the Winter Classic idea, but it’s grown on me as the years have passed. I’m glad the National Hockey League only does this once a year (with the exception of last year’s Heritage Classic), but I wouldn’t mind the latter be kept around so there are two outside games. The league needs to keep this special, but it’s great for the game to be played at different venues that could make for a better atmosphere.
It’s a good thing that the hockey offseason is the shortest in professional sports because I’m sure both teams and both fan bases are anxiously waiting for their teams to take the ice again.