Feb. 9, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; General view of Michigan Stadium during an NHL press conference for the 2013 Winter Classic between Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

A Lightning Winter Classic: Could It Happen?

Yesterday the NHL formally announced that the 2013 Winter Classic will be held at the Big House in Ann Arbor, MI and will feature the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.  To join in on the cavalcade of fanfare about what will most likely be the largest attendance for a single hockey game, I thought I would take a look at the possibilities of the Tampa Bay Lightning being able to participate in a Winter Classic.

Of course the odds of the Bay Area hosting a Winter Classic are pretty much non-existent unless synthetic ice is approved for use by the NHL, so I wont really talk about it at length.  However, it would be a sight to see Raymond James Stadium decked out in “hockey attire” and hearing the cannons fire when the Bolts score.

Alright, so barring the league approving synthetic ice, how do we get in on the festivities.  Easy, we need to have a bit of history (call it rivalry if you must) with the opponent.  I have narrowed it down to two teams that might best fit the bill, the Calgary Flames and the Boston Bruins.

Opponent: Calgary Flames
Venue: McMahon Stadium, Calgary, Alberta (Capacity: 35,650 for Football/46,020 with temporary seating)
This is the easy one.  In 2004 these two teams battled over 7 games to hoist the Stanley Cup, including a Double Over-Time Game 6, which sent the series back to Tampa where we saw, then Captain, Dave Andreychuk hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup over his head.  Sure there has been a lot of roster moves in the eight years since, but there are still players on both sides of the ice that were there.  Of course the NHL and NBC/CBC will be looking at this game from a marketing perspective, well Game 6 of that series is the fourth highest rated hockey match on the CBC (4.682 million viewers).  And with Steven Stamkos, Jarome Iginla, Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, etc. there will be plenty of star power to help draw attention.  Lastly, and a bit of bonus, we can relive “the Fight” in the numerous replayings of it leading up to and during that game.

Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Capacity: 68,756 Football, 22,385 Soccer)
Last years awe-inspiring playoff run, where we watched the Tampa Bay Lightning take Boston to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals would make for a great reason why these two should meet outdoors.  During last season, the ECF series, and during this season a lot of discontent for each other has been brewing, have seen a lot of chippy play during these games (yes yes, it is Boston, but work with me here).  Last year’s ECF Game 7 was the highest rated Conference Final game in the last nine years (Avg 2.55 million/Peak 3.25 million viewers).  Why the change from Fenway Park though?  It’s been done already, time for something new, plus we might get the bonus of hearing Mrs. Brady say things like “Tim Thomas can’t make the saves and score the goals at the same time!”

Hopefully one day the Bolts in Blue will be able to partake in the festivities, until then we’re left to dream about the possible return of a black Bolts uniform back on the ice.

Take care and take it easy,
– Jim Courteau

Follow me on Twitter @BlackSheepJim and of course @BoltsByTheBay

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