In 1967, the NHL came west, in part to chase a proper television contract. Ironically, over 40 years later, the league's largest television event has mostly excluded its West Coast markets.
Arthur, we've asked the question before, but the Kings, owners of the ugliest throwback and Winter-Classic-friendly jerseys are good again, so what do you think of the possibility of a West Coast Winter Classic?
Well, sadly, it would probably exclude the Ducks, but I've said that before. The Ducks aren't great right now, they're regularly written off the national TV schedule (in part, I'm sure, for their ratings performance when they won the Cup), and I don't know if they have the venue to make a bid.
Conversely, I feel like the Kings and Sharks have a decent league-wide marketing campaign behind them. They're both good right now, and they have venues to make a bid. Dodger Stadium is on par with the recent baseball stadiums the league has used. Candlestick Park isn't on par with the league's recent venues, but it's sure cold enough. So you throw AT&T Park in there as an attractive modern venue with an incredible view.
In the event it is in Dodger stadium, you could see the league arranging to have local stars in the audience. Film stars in the 80s like Kurt Russell were regulars at Kings games when the team got Gretzky, and it wouldn't be too hard to recreate that element, even if it isn't as commonplace as it once was amongst Kings fans. A star-studded affair fits in with the theme the league has been hoping for with its recent award shows, and really, its' a huge opportunity they have no reason to ignore.
In the Bay Area, I definitely think there's an opportunity with a place like AT&T Park. The World Series crew went ga-ga over it this year, going so far as to call it the most beautiful park to watch a game. It's a bit colder there than Dodger Stadium this time of year, and it has the advantage of being a modern park and a picturesque place to hold an outdoor game, even if you can't get stars in the audience.
There's definitely an opportunity out West, but the league has to put in the ground work, investing more in the coverage of their West Coast teams. I think it's a glaring missed opportunity until they do.
I disagree that the Ducks would be excluded. I think the Ducks have a great shot at being in the Winter Classic, but only because of the hate. It might seem odd for those who still think of the Disney-owned Might Ducks, but the hockey club in Anaheim could easily be cast as the villain to San Jose, or better yet, the Red Wings. But in order to make that happen the Ducks need to fight back to the playoffs.
We have playoff history with the Wings and the Sharks, so it would be an easy to hype a game. Of course, a more recent match up would be easier to sell. The Kings have the history, the Sharks have the stars, but the Ducks have the hardware, even if that was 4 seasons ago. They are the most successful West Coast team since the Lockout, and if the league featured them in the Classic, it would be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Angel Stadium isn't the most historic, or appealing venue, but it can certainly hold the event. If anything, it offers the NHL the opportunity to showcase the game instead of the venue. So far, the league has had to sell Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and the Crosby v. Ovechkin rivalry that everyone is quickly starting to hate. Instead the event could be about the hockey and the progress hockey has made in the West Coast market. I'm not thrilled about a game in Angel Stadium, but the Ducks would be a solid sell for the league, and that will be enough to overlook the venue, much like the league is doing with Heinz Field this year.