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Tuesdays With Hildy(!): Will The Winter Classic Come To St. Louis, And Does It Matter?

Wouldn't this look prettier with the Arch in the background and the Blackhawks losing? I think so.
Wouldn't this look prettier with the Arch in the background and the Blackhawks losing? I think so.

Admit it: whether you cared about either team in this year's Winter Classic or not, you watched it. It's the NHL's one non-playoff spectacle, and when it's done correctly, it can be pretty swell to watch. The snow-globe game in Buffalo, for example, was beautiful television (even if it made for terrible ice conditions and game stoppages). We all enjoyed rooting for the meteor in 2009 when the Red Wings played the Blackhawks at Wrigley Field. It was spiffy at Fenway.

And then you have games like last season, where the rain made for dangerous ice conditions and the game's biggest star gets laid out with a concussion that he still hasn't recovered from. And, as Helene Elliott of the LA Times correctly points out, you get games like yesterday's that was just meh. Just light snow flurries, too much sun, probably a little too warm... two teams that're rivals but not really good ones... a meh ballpark with no historical background to it. And, to cap off the dullness, NBC's uninspired coverage of the game.

Is the shiny wearing off of the Classic? Well, when you have it every single year - and make it a game with no special significance other than the fact that it's outside - of course it is. It also doesn't help at all that all of the Classics except for the Wings/Hawks one have involved Eastern Conference teams, with just one from the Southeast Division. Also, since the Penguins and Flyers have both been two Classics, one can sense the variety fading away. Thirty teams in the league, and already two repeats? Blah.

How to fix this? New markets!

Next year isn't the year for a new market. The Classic will be in Detroit, though the venue is open. However, at least a Western Conference team'll be hosting, albiet one located in the Eastern Time Zone for TV purposes. As Wysh tosses out, you can actually have different opponents (!), like the San Jose Sharks to finally get the West Coast into the fun. Heck, he even mentions the Blues as possible opponents for next year. While that would be fun, considering the Blues' not-a-rivalry with the Wings and the fact that the road team's won every Winter Classic thus far (except for 2010 which the Bruins won in OT), the NHL looks for market size, and San Jose's close(ish) to LA, which equals large market to them. And that's the Blues' problem in getting into a Classic, let alone hosting one - market size.

It'll be a while. Wysh and CBC both agree that the order for hosting will be Detroit, Washington (or Baltimore), and New York for Yankee Stadium's use. So, that's three more Classics featuring teams that've been the road teams and teams that've won Classics already. It's going to be a while for St. Louis to host one - the soonest is 2016. But, if the Blues're the road team next year, then it's almost a gimmie that they'll host in 2016, right?

Let's pretend that yes, that's right. The Blues host in 2016, and the NHL give them a big-name rival, like the Blackhawks, to solidify TV ratings. Excitement! Busch Stadium! Arch! But outside of St. Louis - outside of us being able to claim the event of the year, does it matter? The ratings this year for the Classic were the lowest so far, and that was with two good teams fighting for the top spot in the conference going at it. Two huge markets were featured, and the reaction was just "meh." Sure, the league made a killing on merchandise and tickets - and they certainly would in St. Louis as well. But, well, after the fact do we want to look at the ratings for the game, see something low, and be frustrated that more people didn't tune in? Or, is the thrill of being told by the NHL that we're special enough? After all, the NHL takes many, many things into consideration when choosing locations. This'd be a shot for the Blues to be on the national stage for the first time in many years, and it'd be validation that they're valued by the NHL as a franchise.

And, as an added treat, imagine the alumni game. I'd be more thrilled to watch Hull, MacInnis, Pronger, CuJo, Shanny, and everyone else out there than to watch the game itself.