After the first outdoor game in played in Edmonton in 2003 between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens the NHL Winter Classic became an annual event starting in 2008. The first Winter Classic was held on January 1st, 2008, between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins, which saw the Penguins win 2-1.
The venue for that first Classic was Ralph Wilson Stadium, which is normally used by the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. The game drew a then record crowd of 71,217 fans. The game also had 3.8 million viewers watching on television. The second Winter Classic was held at Wrigley Field in Chicago and was played by the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, which was won 6-4 by Detroit. The second game was able to draw a huge 4.4 million viewers and was considered a television success by the NHL.
The next three Winter Classics were as follows:
2010-Played at Fenway Park in Boston
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins
Boston won 2-1 in OT
2011-Played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Capitals won 3-1
2012-Played at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Rangers won 3-2
The upcoming 2013 Winter Classic will be played in Ann Arbor, Michigan at Michigan stadium, which currently has a capacity of around 109,00, but has a record attendance of 114,804. The 2013 Winter Classic will feature the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Due to stadium layouts, if I attended a Winter Classic I would prefer it to be in a larger outdoor football stadium. While it may draw some fans just knowing a game is being played in Wrigley or Fenway, I personally think the football stadiums are more suited for the game. The Winter Classic is planned to continue until 2021, but no teams or venues have been announced past the 2013 Classic.
When it comes to the St. Louis Blues – I can think of a few teams/venues I would love to see as a fan of the Blues and hockey in general. I could see the Blues and Blackhawks playing in Soldier Field being a huge success. The NHL would be able to add the element of a hockey rivalry between two teams separated by only a four hour drive. I only see the 2013 Classic having success considering the venue, the teams, and the previous success of the Winter Classic. With that said I would also think a game between the Blues and Red Wings in Ann Arbor, Michigan could produce the same outcome. Now some might say what about St. Louis hosting the Winter Classic. The only real outdoor venue in St. Louis would be Busch Stadium, which is set up for baseball. I would not be against the game being in Busch Stadium at all, but it is just my personal preference that football stadiums seem to have less sight line problems and other issues hosting an outdoor hockey game.
In order for the Blues organization to participate in a Winter Classic it would most likely have to be against a large market team like Chicago or Detroit. This does seem to work in the Blues favor though due to the mentioned rivalry, which exists with both teams on some level, as both are also in the Central Division. Assuming the Blues continue to play high level hockey and are one of the better teams in the NHL, as a fan I would be disappointed to not see them in a Winter Classic within the next five years.