The National Hockey League officially announced on Tuesday, that the St. Louis Blues will host the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri on January 2, 2017.
NBC, TVA Sports and Sportsnet will broadcast the game between the Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks, at 1:00 PM on January 2nd. The game will kick off the United States efforts of the NHL Centennial Celebration.
The 2016-2017 season also marks the Blues 50th season in the NHL.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “What a great way to celebrate 100 years of NHL hockey, playing in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, which honors the westward expansion of the United States. The Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks will help commemorate the expansion westward of the National Hockey League.”
“At the same time, we will have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the incredible growth of hockey in St. Louis. There will be plenty of history to commemorate and lots of excitement to anticipate.”
He added, “For us to have the opportunity to come to a place that truly loves hockey, to play the game in an iconic venue where there are great sports fans, made this a very easy decision for us.”
The Blues and Major League Baseball’s, St. Louis Cardinals have been working together to create unity amongst sports fans in the St. Louis region. They have become even more unified for the area, since the Rams, of the National Football League, left St. Louis for Los Angeles, California earlier this year.
Cardinals President, Bill DeWitt, III said, “We have this wonderful relationship with the Blues. It is really a relationship and that relationship has continued to grow. Now the Winter Classic is really a culmination of a partnership that I know will continue to grow in the years to come.”
DeWitt added, “I would like to thank Commissioner Bettman for making this possible. We have been bugging him for a number of years in ways subtle and not so subtle. Now we finally have this event.”
The 2017 Winter Classic will mark the first outdoor game for the Blues. For the Blackhawks, this will be their third Winter Classic and fifth outdoor regular season game. Chicago also played in the 2009 and 2015 Winter Classics as well as the Coors Light Stadium Series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014 and the Minnesota Wild in 2016.
The Mayor of St. Louis, Francis Slay said, “Landing the Winter Classic in St. Louis is a testament to the ownership group. We are very proud to welcome the NHL Winter Classic to the city of St. Louis.”
During the opening round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blues knocked off the Blackhawks in seven games, as they made their way to the Western Conference Finals before falling to the San Jose Sharks in six.
Blues chairman, Tom Stillman said, “If we were going to host the Winter Classic, it would only make sense that we would play the Chicago Blackhawks. When these teams meet, it is always an intense battle, and we certainly saw that last spring. We would be thrilled to host the Winter Classic in any year, but it is really special to host it in our 50th anniversary season.”
“Thank you, Blues fans. This would not be happening without your support over the years. We would not be hosting the Winter Classic in St. Louis without Gary Bettman’s support.”
Stillman added, “There is a lot of 50th Anniversary stuff, but this will be the centerpiece. It is huge. It is just possible we might be wearing the old uniforms.”
On New Year’s Eve, Busch Stadium will also host the Alumni Classic featuring former stars from both clubs. Blues President and Chief Executive Officer, Chris Zimmerman announced that Brett Hull, Bernie Federko, Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger would be just some of the team’s Hall of Famers slated to play in the alumni game.
Retired forward, Jamal Mayers, who spent a decade with the Blues said, “I know St. Louis has been pining for an outdoor game, well deserved. I think it will be exciting for the entire St. Louis region. To think about how well both teams have been on the cusp of winning Stanley Cups in recent years, it kind of heightens that excitement.”
Mayers added, “Anytime teams play in the playoffs, it kind of heightens that excitement even more. This is one of the few times that kind of pauses and the whole hockey world is watching. I know both sides will be excited to play this games.”
Bettman added that in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the Blues and the appeal nationwide for the Blackhawks, helped to make it seem natural to matchup the Central Division rivals in the Winter Classic this season.
Blackhawks Chief Executive Officer, John McDonough noted that a third Winter Classic was pretty much a dream. He also mentioned that it was a great opportunity for both clubs to rise up to the next level.
McDonough said, “In 2009, our season ticket base after that announcement [of hosting the Winter Classic] went from 3,400 to 14,000. That was a bit of an indication our franchise was on the way back. Everybody that is here today and in the viewing audience, on January 2nd, you are going to experience something very, very special. It is an honor to play in this event.”