By: Ethan Illers
Outdoor Hockey is a beautiful thing. I personally have never been to an outdoor game, but from what I’ve seen on television, it’s something quite special. The stage is set and all the decorations cover the stadium that primarily houses either baseball or football. Then my favorite part happens. The players of both teams emerge from their respective dugouts/tunnels and make the walk towards the ice rink in what seems like a hike to get to. Led by the starting goalies, the teams embark on the journey. The two opposing goalies walk towards each other and then meet at a designated spot, before walking side by side towards the ice, followed by their teammates. The teams then take a break from walking as they stop just steps before the ice. Then the national anthem(s) are sang by a band, artist or some person that has left a mark in music. The players take the ice and skate around so gracefully, getting used to the outdoor ice. Then the reserves take their seats on the bench and the starters take their respective positions at center ice and wait for the faceoff. The referee then drops the puck and the next 60 minutes are up to the players to decide the outcome.
A recent report has surfaced stating that St. Louis could very likely be the host city of the 2017 Winter Classic. The opponent is expected to be the rival Chicago Blackhawks. This will be a prime location as St. Louis is known to be an elite, supportive sports town (even though Rams owner Stan Kroenke thought otherwise). The St. Louis Cardinals take the definition of fan support to a whole new level to the point where it’s almost a religion. The Blues also have some rockin’, loyal fans that are all too accustomed to seeing the Blues embark on an exceptional regular season, only to fall in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The turnout is expected to be one for the ages.
The Blackhawks on the other hand have won three cups in the past six years. Do they have a dynasty? It sure looks like it. No matter what team you root for, you must give Chicago credit for throwing out some very talented, well-rounded teams on the ice year after year. Keep in mind that the Hawks’ fan base is one that travels very well, too. If the Winter Classic is held in St. Louis in January 2017, expect lots of red and blue to fill the Busch Stadium stands. This will likely be the first time that St. Louisians have seen so much red and blue at Busch Stadium since the St. Louis Cardinals wore red and blue on their uniforms back in the day.
Busch Stadium, since its opening in 2006 has housed two World Series Championships for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 and 2011, respectively. If you think the atmosphere was great then, just wait if the Winter Classic happens; it’ll be unreal. The Blues are headlined by stars like Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk to name a few. The Blackhawks on the other hand are comprised of stars Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. The goaltending matchup is something I look forward to with either veteran Brian Elliott or young gun Jake Allen against most likely Corey Crawford. It’ll be interesting to see whom coach Ken Hitchcock decides to throw in the crease as Allen and Elliott have both split time between each other. Regardless, Busch Stadium will be going bananas when the teams emerge from the dugouts. It’ll be a surreal moment when the goalies walk towards each other, meet up, and then walk side by side each other on their way to the ice, while carrying the weight of their teammates on their backs in front of the Busch Stadium crowd. The national anthem will be performed and then it’ll be game time.
The St. Louis Blues have never played in an outdoor game before, so it’s only fitting that they get a chance to do so. If St. Louis is indeed awarded the Winter Classic next year, there’s only one thing left residents of the Gateway to the West have to do-“Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!”