After many rumors that the Minnesota Wild would get the opportunity to host the 2021 Winter Classic, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the Twin Cities would host the annual outdoor game in Minnesota’s 20th season. What could that look like? What events might occur around the Twin Cities leading up to the event?
THE RUMORS WERE TRUE. MINNESOTA TO HOST NEXT YEAR’S WINTER CLASSIC
Sorry about that. I’m excited.
During New Year’s Day annual Winter Classic game, this year between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators, Gary Bettman confirmed that the Wild would host next year’s Winter Classic at Target Field.
While an opponent has yet to be announced, the leading belief is that it will be against a Central Division foe, like the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, or the Winnipeg Jets.
Most Wild fans wanted to see either the Avs or Jets because of the heated rivalry between the two, but some mentioned the Coyotes could be a great match, especially because they will soon be joining the Central division after Seattle joins the league and the early rivalry between former Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper and the current Minnesota Wild players.
Another team oft mentioned was the Vegas Golden Knights, who have taken the league by storm since joining the league in 2017. There’s a minor connection back to the Wild with former GM Chuck Fletcher dealt Alex Tuch to the Knights as an agreement to not pick certain Wild players. I know the squad aren’t big fans of Deryk Engelland after the last match between the two when Engelland relentlessly cross-checked a defenseless Eric Staal and sucker-punched a few other Wild members. Hardly warranting an outdoor game though.
While a long shot, another team that could make sense would be the Vancouver Canucks. It doesn’t immediately strike me as an exciting matchup, but the Canucks have fast-tracked their rebuild after the post-Sedin era with the development of their young players like Brock Boeser, Elias Petterson, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko.
The Rink Layout
In previous years when an outdoor game would be played in a baseball stadium, the rink would run from first base to third base, over the pitcher’s mound, as such:
There’s potential that the Wild and the NHL may have the rink more in the outfield for our Winter Classic, and may sell outfield tickets as well, but in the same configuration, running from First Base Foul Line to Third Base Foul Line
The other potential orientation of the rink would be perpendicular to the typical layout, that is, Home Plate to Center Field. I would love to see this orientation of the rink because it allows everyone on the third-base side in the outfield to watch a hockey game with a gorgeous view of downtown Minneapolis as the backdrop. The league and the Wild could still get seating on the outfield and could allow for cool “field-art” that surrounds the rink that has been a staple of almost every Winter Classic, like having the Mississipi River split the third base side and first base side of the field- Third Base being Minneapolis and First Base being St. Paul.
Rumored Winter Festival
Because of the smaller venue, the league and the Wild would like to make up some of that revenue in other fashions. The easy answer is skyrocketing ticket prices, and while these tickets will certainly cost a pretty penny, I doubt that’ll be the end all be all solution for the Wild and league.
There are rumblings of a Winter Festival occurring leading up to the Winter Classic that would have events across the Twin Cities to increase fan involvement and improve economic impact. An idea I’ve heard multiple times is a hockey inspired art festival.
Having the Winter Classic in the State of Hockey and Land of 10,000 Lakes, I have to believe there will be some sort of Pond Hockey/Shinny Tournament- maybe the US Pond Hockey Championship/North American Pond Hockey Championship gets moved up to fit in the Winter Festival.
If you’re a fan of the Wild, you’re likely a fan of one of our many elite college hockey programs; host a tournament of the Minnesota teams competing against one another. Even stretch it out to include North Dakota and/or the Wisconsin Badgers.
Typically, every Winter Festival has some alumni events, usually in the fashion of an Alumni Game. Minnesota doesn’t have a deep history though, so it might be difficult getting a squad together. Could perhaps see the return of Marian Gaborik in the Forest Green and Red for a game with Andrew Brunette and Nicklas Backstrom. If not an alumni game, maybe just a meet and greet. If they couldn’t fill out enough players to fill a full roster, circle back to the pond hockey idea. Imagine Wild legends trying to score on one another into the small wooden boxes.
There’ll certainly be a concert or two, either leading up to the game or during the game. The obvious choice would be Duluth based Trampled By Turtles and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Prince Tribute.
What else would you like to see be a part of the Winter Classic Winter Festival? More focus on Minnesotan Heritage? More hockey-specific stuff? Something that includes the NWHL Minnesota Whitecaps? Leave a comment down below!
Also, leave a comment who you want the Wild to play!