So Who Gets to Play the Bruins at Fenway?

With an off day in the midst of the NHL Conference Finals -- and who in their right mind would have wanted to watch hockey on Memorial Day, never mind write about it -- this seems as good a time as any to look ahead to January 1 and the 2010 NHL Winter Classic. ↵

↵It's been more or less an open secret for a number of months now that the next edition of what's become one of the most important dates on the NHL calendar will be held at Fenway Park in Boston. In his Sunday NHL notes column, Boston Globe columnist Kevin Paul Dupont let it drop that the fix is in for Fenway, and that the only question remaining is the identity of the visiting team -- Philadelphia or Washington. ↵

↵

↵So who will the NHL pick? In short, this game is all about television ratings, and with the contract between NBC and the NHL ending after the 2009-10 season, the NHL is going to want to make sure that this game gets the biggest number possible. Knowing this, I'd put my money on the Flyers lining up against the Bruins on New Year's Day 2010. ↵

↵

↵Like it or not, as much progress as the Capitals have made in terms of building their fan base -- and it's hard to overstate just how much progress they've made since the resolution of the lockout -- they simply don't have the same sort of hold on the Washington area that the Flyers have on Philadelphia. The only major negative working against the Flyers is the real possibility that Penn State will find itself playing in a New Year's Day game, something that could provide just the sort of distraction that would adversely impact a ratings number. ↵

↵

↵Of course, the biggest argument in favor of featuring the Capitals on New Year's Day has to be the presence of one of the game's biggest stars, winger Alex Ovechkin. At that point, Ovechkin may very well be working on his third straight league MVP trophy, and there's little doubt that the league would love to showcase him and his talents on the biggest stage the game has outside of the Stanley Cup Finals. Then again, with the new Yankee Stadium beckoning, there's always the possibility that the Rangers could host the Capitals on New Year's Day 2011. ↵

↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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