Saturday, February 20, 2016

2017 Winter Classic to pit Blues-Blackhawks at Busch Stadium

Source: NHL is "99 percent certain" game will have Central 
Division rivals play Jan. 2; announcement expected to be made March 9

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The NHL will soon make the announcement that the Blues will not only play in their first outdoor game but host one.

A source close to a league official confirmed that the league will announce on March 9 that the 2017 Winter Classic will have the Blues hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 2 at Busch Stadium.

The source said that the league official confirmed that the NHL is "99 percent certain" of the Blues and Blackhawks for the Winter Classic.
(twitter photo)
A rendered photo of what an outdoor game setup would resemble at
Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Chicago visits St. Louis on March 9 as part of the Wednesday Night Rivalry Game on the NBC Sports Network and gives the NHL the perfect incentive to make the official announcement then.

The Blues and their ownership group, led by chairman Tom Stillman and CEO of business operations Chris Zimmerman, have been craving for an outdoor game, and an announcement in the coming weeks will confirm it will finally come to fruition.

It will be the Blues' first taste of outdoor hockey, but for the Blackhawks, it will be their third Winter Classic and fifth outdoor game (they're playing in the Stadium Series game Sunday at the Minnesota Wild and hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field March 1, 2014).

The 2017 Winter Classic will be the ninth installment, and coincides with the 2016-17 season being the 50th anniversary for the Blues and 100th anniversary for the NHL.

Six cities were part of the expansion of 1967-68, with St. Louis, Minnesota, California, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles part of the expansion that took the NHL to 12 teams along with the Original Six.

Los Angeles was already awarded the 2017 All-Star Game, and it's been reported that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will play one another in an outdoor game, likely a Stadium Series game.

Busch Stadium could hold roughly 50,000 fans for an outdoor hockey game and would cap off a series of events the Blues have implemented to commemorate the franchise's 50th anniversary.

It would be a terrific cap to an already close relationship between the Blues and Cardinals, who have a solid relationship and even much more so since Stan Kroenke moved the Rams to Los Angeles. Stillman and Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III dropped the ceremonial first puck together before the Blues hosted the Carolina Hurricanes at Scottrade Center on Jan. 14, the day the Rams announced they were leaving St. Louis.
(St. Louis Cardinals photo)
The NHL will announce that Busch Stadium will be the host of the 2017
Winter Classic between the Blues and Blackhawks. 

The Winter Classic is traditionally played on Jan. 1, but that date in 2017 falls on a Sunday and it marks the final regular season Sunday for the NFL.

Toronto, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next season, was also under consideration to host the Winter Classic in 2017, but ESPN reported that the NHL has concerns because Toronto already will be hosting the World Cup of Hockey in September and the World Junior Championships in December and January and having too many events packed into a short period of time. The Leafs could also get a Stadium Series game.

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