Blog Entry

Ranking the Winter Classic venues

Posted on: February 9, 2012 11:30 am
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By Brian Stubits

The next edition of the Winter Classic will be held at one of college football's most iconic sites, the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. It's the first time the Classic will be held on a college campus. Previously, three have been held at baseball stadiums and two at NFL stadiums (but to be fair, a college team is a tenant at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field).

The annual outdoor game has seen some of the best sites to host a game in just a short existence. Here's this author's humble ranking of the venues the NHL has picked so far.

Heinz had a prime time look. (Getty Images)

6. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh (2011)

The weather was uncooperative as it was rainy and mild. While it did add a neat effect, the game had to be delayed to the night time as well.

But Heinz Field just doesn't have a whole lot going for it on the appearance side. It's just another nice football stadium, really. Not much to create a setting.

I would have loved to see the game at the Pirates' PNC Park, with downtown Pittsburgh just across the river in the background including the Roberto Clemente Bridge. That is one of if not the best view in baseball from a stadium.

Citizen's Bank Park was rocking in Philly. (Getty Images)

5. Citizen's Bank Park, Philadelphia (2012)

Some lamented that Citizen's Bank was just another cookie-cutter baseball stadium for the game, it doesn't have a ton that makes it unique or characteristic. It doesn't have a true flavor.

Still, after delaying the game a couple of hours the weather played along. There was even snow. Although it only came during an intermission, it was a great site to see.

The stadium does have a little visual appeal going for it in that downtown Philly is beyond the centerfield wall, but it's so far away it doesn't feel like you can reach out and touch it like you could in, say, PNC Park.

Buffalo put on the inaugural American outdoor show. (Getty Images)

4. Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo (2008)

The best thing the Bills' stadium had going for it was the snow globe effect. The wind was whipping and the flurries falling, making for a pretty awesome site.

But much like Heinz, there isn't a whole lot that is visually appealing about the stadium itself. It gets a little extra credit for being the first stadium and in a truly cold city like Buffalo.

I think if it weren't the first game and not snowing the way it was, it would be the most forgettable.

The Big House will have a record crowd. (Getty Images)

3. Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor (2013)

Maybe it's just because I like college football too, but the Big House makes for a pretty great setting.

There isn't anything you can see from the stadium. It's just a massive bowl that is completely enclosed. But I expect the pageantry of college football and the stadium itself will come out. The college campus just adds a cool element to me.

With that said, I can't imagine it will be good for the fans at the game. The seats go up slowly in the bowl, they aren't steep. I can't imagine there will be many good seats for seeing the action.

The Green Monster had a monster presence. (Getty Images)

2. Fenway Park, Boston (2010)

The Green Monster? The Pesky Pole? A relatively small and history-laden stadium? Those are all some great ingredients.

Plus, you know, they got to blast Neil Diamond and sing along. I don't ever really see how that can be a problem.

Boston was a good host and Fenway is a great stadium to take in a game, of any sport. You could just see Carlton Fisk still willing that ball fair while the players sported the eye black. I just loved the shots like the one above with the Monster in the background.

Wrigley's charm was impossible to escape. (Getty Images)

1. Wrigley Field, Chicago (2009)

Was there any doubt? This was as good as it will probably ever get, I think. What can really top it?

Wrigley is as classic as the game of baseball. The ivy on the outfield walls the signature sign, but the rooftop bleachers and city of Chicago in the distance? Just a perfect setting.

While it's cheating a little, the jerseys they were wearing added to the appeal of the game for me. They were by far the best sweaters to appear in a Winter Classic so far.

The stadium on the North Side of Chicago had everything to make for a great Classic.

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