Each year, the NHL holds its annual Winter Classic, a game that is held outdoors in a venue that hold much more than the average NHL stadium.
Just this past year, we saw the league take its annual winter festivities to Michigan Stadium at the University of Michigan, which sparked up debate among the Penn State faithful: will Beaver Stadium ever get its shot to host the NHL’s premier regular season game?
There are a few obstacles in the way of Beaver Stadium getting the opportunity to host the game, most notably the lack of a liquor license, which restricts the sale of alcoholic beverages at college venues. Michigan was approved for a temporary liquor license, allowing them to sell alcoholic beverages for one day.
According to Bernie Punt, the Bryce Jordan Center’s Director of Sales and Marketing, “it’s very possible” that Penn State could obtain something similar.
“It has been a dream of both mine and Joe Battista for over a decade,” Punt said. “Now that he has moved onto the Buffalo Sabres, that dream has become even stronger.”
Punt also discussed how Michigan was able to attain the one day liquor license through the NHL’s contractual obligations with its beer sponsorships. Unfortunately, it is generally easier to obtain a special one-day license in Michigan than it is Pennsylvania — most issued in Pennsylvania are for nonprofits or other fundraising endeavors. But Punt remains optimistic Penn State will find a way.
“Normally the lack of a liquor license would present an issue, but this temporary license helps us avoid that issue,” Punt said.
Punt believes that State College is a thriving hockey market. Plenty of NHL fans — whether they cheer for the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, or someone else — reside in the area, so fan interest in such an event would be no problem.
Some universal logistical problems exist as well. Obviously, it’s hard to predict the weather, and snow or sub-zero temperatures would make playing (and watching) the game difficult. Also, Beaver Stadium is essentially shut down until after the season until April. The stadium’s lines and pipes are all turned off, and hosting a Winter Classic along with the events before and after would require the stadium to be re-opened. The stadium would have to play host to the various youth games and charity events that go along with the big game.
Of course, there are a bevy of positives that would come from hosting the Winter Classic. The big stage could help Beaver Stadium showcase what it has to offer as a facility, along with create possibilities for future hockey events down the road. The University of Michigan showed that it’s possible to host an event of such magnitude in a similar climate and facility. Hopefully, Penn State will be next.