NHL: Stop Shutting Out St. Louis from the Winter Classic

One of the more confounding mysteries to St. Louis Blues fans is the lack of a Winter Classic — or even mention of the consolation Stadium Series or Heritage Classic — coming to town. Recently, Blues owner Tom Stillman had to enthusiastically raise his hand from the back of the classroom to remind Mr. Bettman the team still exists. The theories are many, ranging from small market size to lack of championships, with the most diabolical conspiracy revolving around preventing a Coors-sponsored event in Busch Stadium. Excuses and rationalizations aside, it’s high time the NHL and Gary Bettman show a little more respect to one of the original expansion teams.

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Warm-climate California-based teams have played in multiple NHL Winter Series. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

NHL Must Invest in St. Louis

As other respected St. Louis hockey writers previously mentioned, St. Louis has a rather unpredictable attendance issue. Observers that note these things, while true to a certain extent, shouldn’t forget that the NHL hasn’t exactly done backflips to showcase a team with the tradition of the Blues. True, there’s never been a Stanley Cup parade, but the Blues absent a few short rebuilding years have been in contention virtually every year since their inception. The team routinely features top players, is often found at the top of the standings and is normally in the playoffs. This is a team that has featured Brett Hull, Curtis Joseph, Brandan Shanahan, Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Esa Tikkanen, Martin Brodeur and veritable list of Hall of Famer who’s who. Meanwhile, the League and Gary Bettman have made enormous strides to showcase non-traditional markets, while forgetting St. Louis. Even the Minnesota Wild with less than 15 years in existence are on the docket for a Stadium Series. The League has it backwards if they refuse to offer the city a chance at a major event such as the Winter Classic, then wonder why they feel attendance and viewership might be too low to make it a wise investment. After all, if the Los Angeles Kings — playing in a city major media outlets often called the Lakers — can get these events, there’s absolutely no excuse for a hockey-mad market like St. Louis to be shut out.

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota gets the same pity vote as Winnipeg for hosting a major NHL event. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Even Non-St. Louisans are Tired of Repeating Teams

OK, we get it. Original Six, Stanley Cups etc. It’s not bias if it’s true, and the truth is, the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins can afford to sit out a year. There’s little disagreement from even casual fans that Original Six teams, thick with history and tradition, should be showcased in these special stadium events. However, when other expansion teams like the Flyers, Penguins, Capitals (?), Wild (North Stars) and Kings are in these series and the Blues are not, there at least appears to be some level of bias. The Winnipeg Jets, after all, host the 2016 Heritage Classic (steeped in hockey lore and championships as they are). Although it’s true that perception is the lazy man’s reality, when something happens enough patterns begin to form. The fact remains that the league for some reason appears to be purposefully avoiding St. Louis, when Chicago and Detroit have appeared in multiple Winter Classics, Columbus had the 2015 All-Star Game and the Wild have been announced as a Stadium Series participant. When the Blue Jackets supersede the Blues in a major event, something’s amiss. Hockey fans like variety, and even if their city isn’t participating in a special event they still appreciate not seeing the same handful of teams every year. If the League wishes to bore casual fans rather than piquing their interest, it will engage in the same actions for the near future.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Yes, Boston again. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)


18 thoughts on “NHL: Stop Shutting Out St. Louis from the Winter Classic”

  1. The event is sponsored by Coors. A Coors event in Busch stadium will never happen. End of story. It doesn’t have much to do with anything else.

  2. This West Coast hockey fan has long thought that St. Louis deserves an outdoor game. Here’s an idea: don’t do it in a stadium. Put some temporary bleachers up, right next to a rink built next to the Arch. Fewer seats, but better sight lines, and much, much better television. Imagine the visuals, playing hockey with the Arch in the background, and the fans won’t be a hundred yards away from the ice. Since you could only seat about 9000 on temporary bleachers, you will have to do 2 games to satisfy your season-ticket holder base (there is precedent, Yankee stadium had two outdoor games in one week). So go ahead and bring in the Black Hawks for one game, and maybe the Preds for another. If you want to convince Bettman et al to look at St. Louis, you have to market something different to the league. Good luck.

  3. Yes the Blues and Blackhawks in St. Louis is the first game that comes to everyone’s mind if the Blues were to host a game. It is obviously one of the bigger rivalries in the NHL and I think fans outside of both markets have some sort of tangible interest in a Blues Hawks game. However, lets not forget the Red Wings. The Red Wings have played in two outdoor games (09,14) and have not been a regular in the outdoor games. Plus, Blues and Red Wings have a long standing rivalry from their days in the former Western Conference Central Division. And for years in St. Louis people wanted to watch the Blues play the Red Wings over the Blackhawks. Its not like the NHL is scared of doing East vs. West either, I mean they did the Hawks and Capitals, they can certainly put two former division rivals on outdoor ice. In present day terms, I think the Blues and Blackhawks is the best option, but the Red Wings are a damn good alternative, plus it keeps the Hawks out of every outdoor game possible

  4. Sadly the NHL only cares about what makes them the most money. Any Winter Classic or Stadium Series is guaranteed money, but if the ratings and money isn’t on par with a media darling like the Blackhawks or Rangers, then you can kiss the Blues chances of hosting almost nil at this time.

    The Blues only hope is if the city of St Louis keeps the Rams with the new outdoor stadium, then they invite the Blackhawks for an outdoor game because god knows the world isn’t sick of seeing the Blackhawks in another damn outdoor game.

    • And obviously a Blues-Blackhawks game would be ideal. But we can’t even get invited to play IN CHICAGO, much less host it here in St. Louis

  5. Thank you for writing this article. Hopefully the NHL will realize that the Blues are a real team with real fans unlike some other teams we know.

    • You were doing fine until your self-promoting “real fans” crap. You aren’t better than anyone else. The fact that the Blues are your team of choice doesn’t make you better than anyone else.

      Blues fan who doesn’t like childish sports nerds

  6. A Blues vs Black hawks or Red wings outside game at Bush stadium would cause massive buzz in St.Louis. I guarantee it would sell out within an hour of the tickets being available.

  7. @Quit Whining….Maybe you forgot about Red Berenson, Garry Unger, Bob and Barclay Plager, Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter, Brett Hull, Mike Liut, Al MacInnis, Glenn Hall, Chris Pronger, Keith Tkachuk, and the current team had I believe 7 members that took part in last years Olympics. And to say the Blues are the Cubs of hockey is misleading. The Blues, as the story states, have put up good years almost exclusively and are post-season mainstays. The Cubs…100 years and counting and few playoff appearances to talk about.

  8. To say that the Blues “featured Brandan Shanahan, Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Esa Tikkanen, Martin Brodeur and veritable list of Hall of Famer who’s who” is somewhat of a reach. Shanny played for the Blues 3-1/2 seasons, the other 4 were either in the twilight of their careers or washed up. It’s Brendan by the way.

    The problem is the Blues are the Cubs of Hockey. One season since their first 3 they made it to the conference finals, other than that they’ve been irrelevant. Outside of their own myopic fans’ imagination, what have they done to earn respect? The highlight of the franchise is meaningless game on a Monday Night in1986.

    Major problems are with the City itself, shitty airport, major crime (they’ll win murder capitol for 2014), total lack of downtown police presence keeps people from hanging out downtown. The civic disasters of the past year have sealed the City’s fate. Other than Wash Avenue and Ballpark Village there are Zero downtown attractions in the middle of the winter.

    Chicago keeps getting these events because it has an awesome downtown. Detroit has played in several of these because they have a nationwide fanbase, but they haven’t hosted one. The one at U of M was there because the NHL wanted to set a record for the largest outdoor hockey crowd and still didn’t. That was Michigan vs. Michigan State.

  9. A life long STL resident and I also could never figure out why Blues have never had a Winter Classic. What does Bettman have against us, midwest location, no Stanley Cup? I also have grown bored watching the same teams year after year. A Blues/ Blackhawks game I think would be great, just like Cards/Cubs. Stop with all the original 6, East and West coast teams. Even a Blues/Preds game would generate a crowd

  10. Thank you David Lipscomb,

    Being born and raised in the St. Louis area, I have waited my entire life to see a Stanley Cup parade down Market St. Since a Stanley Cup has not happened yet, I would at least settle for some respect from the rest of the league to recognize that we are a hockey town and like you said, the Blues have been competitive for most of the years since they came into the league in ’67. It do not understand the wariness of hosting an outdoor game in St. Louis. The fact that it is a city that loves hockey (and sports in general), I believe that an outdoor game would be widely accepted and successful in St. Louis. I could see Busch Stadium either selling out, or at least filling the majority of its 47,000 seats for an outdoor game. It would be quit a picture with that St. Louis skyline in the background.

  11. You can drop the sarcasm about Winnipeg. A Winnipeg team won one of the original Stanley Cups before it became a Professional Trophy. Winnipeg, together with Montreal is practically the birthplace of modern, North American Hockey.

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