Buffalo, Chicago, Boston and Pittsburgh have had their turns, and Philadelphia is up next Jan. 2. That’s five NHL Winter Classics without a visit to the metropolitan area.
So, NHL, when will the game finally come to Big Town? Probably not until 2014 at the earliest.
“I don’t think we’re looking at a Winter Classic next year in New York,’’ John Collins, the NHL’s chief operating officer, said Wednesday, standing on a stage on the “Saturday Night Live’’ set during an event to promote this season’s game between the Rangers and Flyers.
“But at some point maybe the scheduling opportunity allows us to get in.’’
The primary scheduling challenge is the late-December Pinstripe Bowl college football game, to which Yankee Stadium is committed at least through 2013.
The NHL needs time to set up and break down its rink, which would have been logistically impossible given this year’s Pinstripe Bowl date of Dec. 30.
Collins said MetLife Stadium also would be “a great place to stage a game,’’ but that the fact two NFL teams play there likely rules out that facility.
What about Queens? “We looked at Citi Field, spent a lot of time with Jeff [Wilpon],’’ Collins said. “It’s a beautiful ballpark.’’
Still, it’s not Yankee Stadium, which appears to be the preferred New York venue.
“We’ve got the Rangers [in this season’s game], so it’ll give us a couple of years to figure out how we make it happen,’’ Collins said of staging a Classic in New York.
When NBC executive Jon Miller tried unsuccessfully to arrange a version of the Classic in 2004, he hoped to have the Bruins face the Rangers at the original stadium in the Bronx.
The Yankees’ response at the time? Recalled Miller: “No way; we’re not going to play hockey in Yankee Stadium. That’s crazy.’’