It’s Time To Make Beaver Stadium Winter Classic A Reality
Starting in 2008, the NHL has held an annual game on or around New Year’s Day in either a football or baseball stadium. The Winter Classic is essentially an outdoor celebration of hockey typically played between two high-profile teams in homage to the sport’s roots in pond hockey, which is the sport’s equivalent to street soccer, sandlot football, or backyard baseball.
The Winter Classic has become the most-watched regular season game in the NHL and comes close to the Stanley Cup in television ratings. As Sports Illustrated’s Dan Shaughnessy aptly said, “Hockey owns New Year’s Day the way baseball owns the Fourth of July and football owns Thanksgiving.”
The 2014 game set an NHL attendance record when the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in a 3-2 shootout in The Big House. The Ann Arbor game drew a crowd of 105,491 fans, and I think it’s time that Pennsylvania breaks that record with a Happy Valley Winter Classic.
This isn’t by any means a novel concept, but it’s almost unbelievable that the NHL hasn’t yet made a deal to host a game at Beaver Stadium.
The story writes itself. Deep in the heart of Pennsylvania lies the second-largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere. Happy Valley may have made its name as a football mecca, but there is no shortage of hockey fans in this town. In fact, because of Penn State’s near equidistance to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the area has a contentious NHL rivalry amongst Flyers and Penguins fans. And then there’s Terry Pegula, a billionaire gas maven, owner of an NHL franchise, and one of Penn State’s largest donors.
As we wrote last February, the largest hurdle between Beaver Stadium and an ice rink taking the place of the gridiron is a liquor license. At Michigan Stadium, the university was able to obtain a temporary one-day license in order to sell alcohol for its Winter Classic, which would certainly be a possibility here. Pennsylvania liquor laws are stricter than Michigan, and as such, temporary licenses are more difficult to obtain. But for an event like the Winter Classic that would bring plenty of business into the state, it’s hard to imagine the commonwealth taking the public image hit that would come with blockading Beaver Stadium from hosting the game.
Just imagine what a spectacle a State College Winter Classic would really be. 107,000 fans would descend on Beaver Stadium during Happy Valley’s arctic season, not to watch a snowy whiteout game, but instead to see professional hockey played in The House That JoePa Built. Beer would flow from taps in the concourse (!!!) as a sea of black and orange and gold jerseys navigated Beaver Stadium.
It’s a beautiful thought, and it’s even more beautiful when you look at the Photoshop atop this post and can visually comprehend what a hockey rink would look like on the Beaver Stadium field. Nobody has anything to say on potential progress with a Winter Classic in Happy Valley, and 2016 has already been booked at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
But with hockey season in full swing and college football in its annual winter hibernation, we were again reminded of the glaring lack of a Winter Classic in the center of Pennsylvania. It’s time for somebody to make the inevitable become the official and turn a Beaver Stadium Winter Classic into a reality.