I’ll preface this by saying that I have wanted a Devils outdoor game since before the first Winter Classic was even played.
But this “Classic” has the stink of the NHL all over it.
Sure, it’s a great thing that reports are indicating that the Devils will square off against the Rangers on January 26th, 2014. An outdoor game against their biggest rival, sure that’s fine. But that’s where it ends.
First, let’s take a look at the venue. Yankee Stadium. Great stadium… for baseball. It holds 55,000 people, which is a solid number, but again, it’s a baseball stadium. I’ve been there for a football game and it really isn’t all that. A lot of the seats don’t work for a hockey game. The bleachers aren’t very accomodating and anything high up is just too far.
Why not put the game somewhere else? The first thing that comes to mind is Rutgers Stadium. It holds about the same number of people as Yankee Stadium, there’s more parking and areas to tailgate and being that it’s a football stadium, it’s made to watch something that happens in the middle as opposed to a baseball stadium which is more for action at home plate.
The drawback for Rutgers stadium is that it’s not really that close. It’s an hour plus away from the NYC metro area. That’s not so bad, but I understand why they wouldn’t want to have people travel so far. Also, with the Super Bowl week, they want to keep it in the area.
But here’s what doesn’t make sense. The Devils are the HOME team for this event and so are the Islanders for their outdoor game against the Rangers. Why is this? Oh, it’s quite simple. Let the Devils and Islanders forfeit one of their home games and let the Rangers keep all 41 of their games at MSG.
So if it’s a home game, the Devils should control all of the tickets? Fat chance. I know season ticket holders will be able to purchase tickets, but if you think that they’re not going to give a large allotment to the Rangers, you’re crazy. I would go as far as to say that despite being a Devils “home” game, there will be either an equal, or larger contingency of Rangers fans there.
So basically, all it does is allow the Rangers to have two more outdoor games without having to sacrifice a single home game.
The Rangers will now have THREE outdoor games before some teams even have one. Minnesota, the land of pond hockey, has not had an outdoor game, but the Rangers will have three. How is that fair to the rest of the league? Oh that’s right, the NHL doesn’t care.
Getting back to location for a second, I was thinking last night and came up with what would be a much better option: Michie Stadium at West Point. Though it only holds 38,000 people, that’s twice the amount of Prudential Center. It’s a football stadium, so that makes a lot of sense and it’s also on one of the most gorgeous campuses in the entire nation. It’s a pleasure to go up there for an Army football game, so why not an outdoor hockey game? Furthermore, the aspect that Yankee Stadium lacks the most is tailgating. There are a couple of areas, but not nearly enough for fans coming to an NHL game to all enjoy the experience. West Point has the training grounds which serve as areas to tailgate for football games. There is plenty of space and that would GREATLY add to the experience of the game.
In conclusion, this is NOT the Devils Winter Classic. Though it will still be fun, it’s a ploy by the NHL to jump on the bandwagon created by the Super Bowl being played in Giants Stadium (Yes, I know it’s MetLife). The thought of the Devils playing a “home” game in the same city that the Rangers play is disgusting. It’s all about playing to the needs of the bigger market team. Why not Devils-Islanders since the Rangers already got a chance? There’s no way that wouldn’t sell out.
I’d go as far as to say that I’d have more respect for a Devils-Islanders game at Citi Field with the Devils as the away team, instead of this.
Once again the NHL proves that it has the thoughts of the big market teams over the smaller markets, as they always have, and always will.
I’m not saying to boycott the game. I’ll be there, but the situation is definitely not Devils-friendly.
EDIT 12:25 pm: Had a chat in a Facebook group with a very pro-New Jersey individual. He brought up the some ideas and it made me realize that not only does the game being played in NY get rid of taxes for the home state (something no other home team in the winter classic has dealt with), it also it takes away jobs from the people who work in and around the Prudential Center on game day. At least putting the game at Rutgers would give NJ the tax money.