The NHL Winter Classic is one of the best events put on by the NHL every season, but which past venue is the best?
The new year is almost upon us, which means it’s just about time for the NHL to head back outdoors for the annual Winter Classic.
The Winter Classic has always been one of the most unique events in sports, bringing hockey back outside to its roots of skating outdoors, and hosted at some of the greatest stadiums in the United States. There’s no other event like it that has such a unique feeling.
As the NHL prepares to return to Fenway Park for the New Year’s Day matchup between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, let’s take a look at all of the previous hosts of the Winter Classic, and determine which was the best.
13. Gillette Stadium — 2016
Great on paper with the original six matchup between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, but the venue and the weather drags this one down. The rainy weather was a nummer, and this was the second Winter Classic hosted by Boston already. Gillette was a great host, but going up against a lot of the other venues on this list is a tall order.
12. Busch Stadium — 2017
A bit of a forgettable Winter Classic, but not to any fault of St. Louis. Weather put a bit of a damper on this one, but this was a rare instance of the home team not just winning, but dominating. While it may not be remembered by other fans, Blues fans definitely got their money’s worth out of this one.
11. Nationals Park — 2015
An incredible game with an even better finish between the Capitals and Blackhawks in a great venue that surpassed low expectations, but the sunlight issues made this a bit of a pain to deal with. But all of that is made up by one of the best Winter Classic moments of all time, with Troy Brouwer’s game-winning goal with 12.9 seconds left.
10. Heinz Field — 2011
2011 had the hype but just couldn’t deliver. Capitals vs Penguins, Ovechkin vs. Crosby are games that define this generation, and it’s only right they met outdoors at least once. However, the weather delayed the puck drop several hours tonight, and it definitely didn’t help the quality of the ice. Heinz Field is nice and put on a phenomenal show under the lights, but it’s just not fair to compare it to other Winter Classic venues here.
9. Citi Field — 2018
The 10th anniversary of the Winter Classic delivered in a big way and a great return back to New York for an outdoor game. Freezing cold temperatures and a perfect sunny day was a perfect backdrop to an even better game. The image of JT Miller celebrating the OT winner with fire blazing in the background will forever be an all-time classic.
8. Target Field — 2022
Minnesota had to wait a little longer than usual for their turn at a Winter Classic, but they absolutely delivered. The coldest Winter Classic on record made for a great return to the Winter Classic post-pandemic, and Minnesota put on a fantastic experience from start to finish.
7. Citizens Bank Park — 2012
While maybe not as a historic venue as some of the other MLB stadiums, Citizens Bank Park hosted an amazing Winter Classic, even with some weather delays. The game between the Flyers and Rangers is one of the best Winter Classics of all time, complete with a penalty shot in the final seconds.
6. Fenway Park — 2010
This one had just about everything, a classic venue, perfect weather, and plenty of firsts. For the first time, the hosting fans walked with a victory, with the first OT winner in the Winter Classic no less. The only thing holding Fenway back from being a little higher was the awkward camera angles, but with another Winter Classic at Fenway Park coming on soon, that will likely be ironed out.
5. Wrigley Field — 2009
How do you follow up on the first, near-perfect Winter Classic? Hosting a game at one of the most historic venues in the country is a great way to go. This was where the Winter Classic really established its brand for historic stadiums, and it certainly helps that the game itself delivered with 10 combined goals.
4. Notre Dame Stadium — 2019
Yes, the fatigue of the Blackhawks and Bruins in the Winter Classic was at its peak here, but that cannot distract from finally having an outdoor game at the incredible Notre Dame Stadium. From the anthem to the final horn, this one had everything that you want from a Winter Classic venue.
3. Cotton Bowl — 2020
Outdoor hockey in Texas? Surely that would never work, right? Turns out, it was a complete success. The Cotton Bowl knocked it out of the park with an amazing atmosphere and beautiful venue. It was a much-needed breath of fresh air to a format that started to feel stale.
2. Ralph Wilson Stadium — 2008
Sometimes you just can’t beat the original. The 2008 Winter Classic in Buffalo was just about everything the NHL could’ve hoped for when they brought the outdoor games back. Between the picture-perfect snow, the beautiful venue, and the shootout ended by Sidney Crosby, the NHL has been trying to match that Winter Classic ever since.
1. Michigan Stadium — 2014
The Winter Classic is all about bringing hockey back to its roots of “outdoor hockey”, and the 2014 Winter Classic knocked it out of the park. Two original six franchises, playing in the freezing cold snow, in a beautiful stadium that hosted 105,491 fans. Overall, The Big House vs. Ralph Wilson Stadium was enough to push this to number one.