Shut In From the Outdoors
If there was any doubt remaining Conference III was the NHL’s scary band of misfits (and, no, we don’t wanna be NY Rangers), it seems that we won’t be blowing up the outside world, despite as many as four outdoor games in 2013-14.
From The Fourth Period on the heels of today’s announcement of the resurrection of the Wings-Leafs Winter Classic:
Dodger Stadium won’t be the only outdoor game, aside from the Winter Classic. The NHL has been involved in endless discussions with the folks over at Yankee Stadium to stage a Rangers’ home game in the facility. It’s unclear how those conversations have progressed, as the NHL is also considering other alternative venues outside of New York, but their preference is The new House That Ruth Built.
There is a good chance we’ll also witness an outdoor game north of the border.
The Heritage Classic is expected to make its return next season, as well. This too, is not yet final, as every Canadian market has expressed an interest to host this event, but the front-runner is still believed to be Vancouver, with the Edmonton Oilers as the possible opponent.
Unless that Heritage Game moves from Ecotopia to Winnipeg, tough cookies.
Just in case, though, we have some suggestions (with music!) for outdoor games in Conference III.
Stars vs. Predators at Greer Stadium
Dallas and Nashville, like a high school’s two most attractive nerds, called dibs on each other early as Conference III rivals and as prom dates. There was no need, as this rivalry — real cowboys and cowboy singers, dueling primetime dramas, two teams perennially on the playoff bubble — is almost foreordained.
While Jerry Jones actually built a stadium (featured on Dallas) and Lamar Wyatt fictionally wants to build one in Nashville, the Conference III-est venue is the AAA Nashville Sounds’ Greer Stadium, a disgusting, aging hulk on the fringes of Music City’s bad side and on a Civil War battlefield (to be fair, almost all of west and south Nashville is a Civil War battlefield). The least surprising news about Greer Stadium would be that some sort of underground fight-club-slash-bootlegging-ring was being run out of the shadow of the guitar-shaped scoreboard. The most surprising news is that Cal Ripken thinks it’s a good park.
Chicago vs. St. Louis at Frank M. Lindsay Field
While it would violate the parole terms of large portions of the Blues fanbase to cross state lines, these two ancient enemies can meet in Decatur, Illinois, more or less halfway between the Midwestern metropolises, whose civic and sports rivalry dates back centuries probably.
Lindsay Field, on the campus of Millikin University, seats only 4,000 people. Since four Blackhawks fans paid $185 a piece for $22 tickets for Saturday’s normal inside game at Nashville, this game would basically be a license for the NHL to print money.
For entertainment, Decatur features one of the oldest non-military bands in the United States. Maybe Sufjan could do the anthem. For history, the Chicago Bears started life as the Decatur Staleys playing at Staley Field, the location of which is now some kind of industrial wasteland. Come to think of it, a grimey brownfield would be perfect for a Conference III game.
The Wild are among the teams actively (and apparently fruitlessly) lobbying for an outdoor game, which makes a lot of sense because the State of Hockey — as anyone from there will tell you 124 times within six minutes of meeting you — has a tradition of outdoor hockey unrivaled in much of the United States. Therefore, the ultimate middle finger is to play this game in Denver at a stadium whose name is the most crass naming-rights money grab there is. Furthermore, we know how much NBC loves Narratives — and Denver is all but certain to provide nasty weather and hours of questions about the thin air. Costas in a scarf bloviating about O2 levels! Catch the Conference III fever! Is the world ready for the pure excitement of Ryan Suter on 24/7? Let’s find out.
Winnipeg vs. Calgary at Turner Field
If they can play at Dodger Stadium, they can play in Atlanta and surely there are literally tens of people in Atlanta begging to see their former teams hook up at their faux-old repurposed Olympic stadium. Flames. Olympics. Get it? Jets fans — the “ASK ME ABOUT MY GRANDCHILDREN” of the NHL — would be absolutely thrilled if their team got the attention of returning as conquering heroes to the city they abandoned, leaving Atlanta so paralyzed with shock, it barely registered a response.
I know there are angry Thrashers fans because they came to the Jets-Preds game last year and gave their jerseys the heave-ho (it was also Alexander Radulov’s home re-debut, by the way). But are there clutches of leftover Flames fans there with their Tom Lysiak or Guy Chouinard sweaters? Will there be fans at this game with those half-and-half jerseys who can’t quite figure out who they are?