The NHL announced today that the 2017 Winter Classic will be held in St. Louis with the Blues hosting their Central Division rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. The game will be played on January 2, 2017.
Gary Bettman had this to say about the choice of St. Louis: “What better way to celebrate 100 years of NHL hockey than playing in the shadow of the Gateway Arch. At the same time we will be able to spotlight the incredible growth of hockey in St. Louis. There will be plenty of history to commemorate and lots of excitement to anticipate.”
Bettman’s comment with regards to the growth of the sport in the city is driven by the fact five St. Louis natives – Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Luke Kunin and Trent Frederic – were chosen in the first round of the 2016 draft. A sixth, Joseph Woll, was selected in round three. All six players once suited up for the St. Louis AAA Blues.
This will mark the third Winter Classic appearance for Chicago and the first for the Blues. The Blackhawks have also appeared in two Heritage Classic games and have played in more outdoor contests than any other team.
On their way to a berth in the Western Conference Finals, the Blues downed Chicago in an entertaining back-and-forth, seven game series. The league obviously saw the benefit of pitting these two rivals in the marquee game of the regular season.
Of course, several longtime Hawks – including Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook – have loads of experience outdoors, while the Winter Classic will mark the first opportunity for several Blues to play in such a contest.