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Dreaming of an Islanders Winter Classic

If it can do football...
If it can do football...

For the last two years the NHL has been in discussions with Yankee Stadium about the Winter Classic. While the NHL most likely wouldn't include the Islanders in a New York Winter Classic (let's face it, the league has been good about getting competitive teams in the Classic), it can never hurt to dream. Right now though the dream is on at least a one year hiatus due to the Short Island Smurfs playing in it. Along with the West being deserving of another Classic right about now.

The Stadium

It's got to be Yankee Stadium, even as much as I hate the Yankees, the history is there. It also helps that the stadium is in the city unlike the new Meadowlands arena. Citi Field, even though they brought the big apple over, just feels like it would be wrong. Plus I can't think of any company less deserving of any publicity right now then Citi. I think every sports fan in NYC can admit that among the available open air stadiums, New Yankees Stadium would be the finest site for a game.

It would be something historic, as the original Yankee stadium never held a hockey game despite existing at a time when ballparks seemed to be used for everything. The original Yankee stadium not only hosted College Football, Pro Football and Soccer, but also Boxing and two different Pope lead masses. There is something to say about a hockey game being played with that famous frieze as a backdrop.

The Opponent

If it wasn't the Rangers, the league would be missing out. Of course NBC would probably have something to say about it if the league picked two teams from the same market, but the NYC media market is large enough to almost double the combined markets of previous teams. If the Islanders were winning at a regular pace (which they would be) and the Rangers were competitive, it's been shown that the fans for both teams will come out in droves.

The other problem of course is that the other rivals for the Islanders (Flyers, Penguins) have both been in 2 Winter Classics. No one is calling for the Devils to be in a Classic, and there was never really a rivalry between the two teams as both fans hate the Rangers. NBC probably wouldn't allow the league to put a Canadian team into the Classic, eliminating the Leafs. The only other true rival would be the Capitals, but for a lot of fans of both teams that was a different time and age. It would have to be the Rangers.

The Alumni Game

Could easily be one of the best Alumni games since the 2003 Heritage Classic featured the best of the 70s Canadians Vs the best of the 80s Oilers. It would be the Islanders 80s Dynasty Vs the Rangers of the 90s. We can even agree to split Pat Lafontaine and let him play for both teams. Billy Smith and Chico facing off against Mike Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck. Denis Potvin and Brian Leetch counter charging up and down the ice. Mark Messier and Bryan Trottier squaring off at the faceoff circle. Al Arbour and Mike Keenan in charge of the benches.

It would probably be one of the meanest Alumni games ever played. It would also be the first time the "Potvin Sucks!" chant would be relevant in two decades. While the Flyers forced people who bought tickets to the actual Winter Classic to buy tickets for the Alumni game, this feels like it could be a hot ticket of it's own right. There's plenty of fans from both sides who have argued up and down about which team was better.


Over 10,000 fans showed up for a hockey game at Nassau last year that featured not a single current or future NHL Star. This year will be the 39th Annual FDNY Vs NYPD Ice Hockey matchup, and not including it in the Winter Classic festivities would be a huge missed opportunity. I've seen a few of these games and they are something else to take in. Both teams have a ton of pride on the line, and they tend to be high scoring affairs.

At the same time, both sides have their fair share of goons out there. So you get a little bit of everything. It is easily one of the most competitive games you'll see featuring a cast of all amateur players. If you've never lived in NYC or in the area, it's tough to describe the rivalry between the two sides. You've just got to be there and take it in to understand what makes it so much fun.

The Uniforms

I always enjoy when a jersey really goes as old as possible. This year I definitely like the Flyers calling back to the Quakers, a defunct Philly team that played one season in the NHL after moving across state from Pittsburgh. The Rangers meanwhile are using a shield that looks almost as bad as the Kings home plate logo.

For the Islanders, I'll admit I am biased and would love to see them use something based off the old New York Americans jerseys.

For the Rangers I would use either the 1928 or 1933 jersey and keep it simple from there. Both of those years they won the cup, and no one wants to remind Ranger fans about 1940.

The AHL Game

Confusingly the Adirondack Phantoms (Flyers) and Hershey Bears (Capitals) are set to face off in the AHL matchup. Both teams do have a long rivalry from when they were both based in PA. The Bears have also been one of the best teams in the AHL the last few years. Meanwhile the Phantoms haven't been the same since a team loaded with NHL talent in 04-05 won the Calder Cup.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Connecticut Whale are following in the footsteps of their adult clubs and tend to hate each other. When the Wolfpack became the Whale last year, their first game was against the Sound Tigers and they took a certain glee in ending a losing streak against BP. This seasons saw Micheal Haley and Stu Bickel fight in the AHL and a few weeks later fight during an NHL game. Both teams play each other tough no matter what their records say.

The Actual Game

Anyone who hasn't seen an Islanders game is missing out this season. John Tavares is really showing that he is one of the most talented players in the NHL. Every night he keeps finding new ways to score and impress us. As Frans Nielsen said "Oh, sick. {laughs} That's what he do." which pretty much sums up Tavares. Michael Grabner (if he can get back on track) has that Pavel Bure ability to make you hold your breath when he takes that first step. Aldo Montoya has an uncanny ability to steal games. There's a lot of good stories to be told about all these guys, and a lot the wider NHL audience has been missing out on.

Meanwhile with the Rangers, even if the team struggles, Henrik Lundqvist can put on a clinic. Islander fans know only too well what he's capable of. Marian Gaborik can do magical things with the puck, and Brad Richards is turning out to be one of the few good UFA signings by the team. Each team has had it's time dominating, but series between the two teams are always close.

The Reality

Unfortunately we can dream, but it probably won't happen for a bunch of reasons. NBC isn't going to let the league use two teams from the same city/market. The Islanders are going to have to be good for more then a season, putting a possible Winter Classic appearance at least two seasons in the future. Even then, given the NHL's love for ignoring the Islanders, it's possible the Rangers still get the next Winter Classic to be held in the East.

Which is too bad, because it feels like the Winter Classic has only had a real rivalry game once. The Blackhawks and Red Wings are real rivals. Penguins and Capitals is supposed to be a rivalry, but it feels more like it's about the two players the league shoves down your throat the most being shoved even further down your throat. How does the NHL get to the point that the Pens and Flyers have both been in 2 Winter Classics but haven't played each other?

PS: Please NHL, don't take this as a reason to put the Pens and Flyers in a Winter Classic game two years from now?