The NHL once again attempted to cash in on a day traditionally reserved for college football, and they did so this year in one of college football's cathedrals of the game. Michigan Stadium was the site of this year's NHL Winter Classic, pitting the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs, so you might be forgiven if you were caught off guard by the amount of red seen milling around Michigan Stadium on January 1. This year's Winter Classic may have been one of the best the event has seen with perfect outdoor hockey weather between two Original Six teams and a game decided by a shootout in one of college football's and the North American sports world's true icons.
Not surprisingly, this year's Winter Classic smashed the attendance for an outdoor NHL game with 105,491 tickets sold. The Guinness World Record folks are still compiling all of the data to determine the official number, but it is expected this game will set the new world record for the largest crowd at an outdoor hockey game.
There are few college football stadiums that would make for a great atmosphere for an outdoor hockey game in the NHL Winter Classic, but do not be surprised if at some point the idea comes up again given the continued success for the NHL's marquee mid-season event. Yes, this is better than the NHL All-Star Game and skills competition and the league continues to shutdown for the Olympics, so the outdoor game is as good as it gets for the NHL until the postseason.
Personally, I am still holding out hope the NHL schedules an outdoor game in Penn State's Beaver Stadium between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. It is an idea that has been discussed for years in the Keystone State, but it will have to wait. The NHL will send the New Years game to Washington D.C. next season, and Nationals Park appears to be the most likely option given the time needed to prepare an NFL venue for the event. The game has twice been played in an NFL stadium, but that can easily become a massive headache if that city's NFL team makes a run for the playoffs. This is why baseball stadiums have hosted the game three times and why Michigan Stadium worked out so well.
Here are five college football stadiums worthy of hosing a future NHL Winter Classic, and the ideal teams to play in the game.