Friday, January 8, 2010

Will there be ice hockey at Citi Field?

Will there be ice hockey at Citi Field?

That's tough to say. Jeff Wilpon wants it and has told the NHL "that the Mets are ready, willing and able to host it at Citi Field". I think a lot of fans want it. Does the NHL want it? Is it the best place to stage an outdoor hockey game in the NYC area? It sounds like the NHL is going to figure this one out.

Let's break down the different venues for staging this event in the NYC area.
  1. (the soon to be opened) Giants Stadium - It's certainly a top venue in the area to hold this event. But the logistics would stand in the way. 2 teams play there, so in 17 weeks, there's 16 games. If the NFL starts is season on the weekend after Labor Day, which they've done for the past several years, then the season would start September 9 & 12 and it would end January 2. The Winter Classic is played on January 1. The NHL needs to be in the venue "by Dec. 23 in order to get the rink assembled in time for a New Year’s Day game". And I don't think it could be torn down and the field readied for football in 24 hours time, so that pretty much means 2 Sundays without football at Giants Stadium to make this work. The NFL would need to schedule both teams home one week during the season (certainly possible with a Thursday night game), and have both on the road for 2 weeks to end the season.

    Now, let's say they do all that. The NHL would have a tough time justifying having any team other than the New Jersey Devils as the home team. The Devils are interested in playing. A Devils-Rangers game would seem natural, and this is a stadium that plays host to two teams called "New York", so it would be hard keeping the Rangers out. But I know that the NHL's TV partner, NBC, is deathly afraid of the Devils. They're like a small market team, and the NHL wouldn't risk that in a big event. They want the Rangers. But they wouldn't have 2 teams from the same market playing each other.

    Bottom line - A logistical problem for Giants Stadium and the NFL, and another one for the NHL and NBC. The Giants Stadium problem will be the one to prevent the game from being played. But if they can work it out, how about playing two - one Devils home game and one Rangers home game, and bring in 2 opposing teams. Worth a thought.

    The NFL schedule comes out in April. If we see something funny with Jets and Giants road games ending the season, we'll know that something's up, even if the NHL sits on the news until the summer when their schedule comes out. But I just don't think it will happen.

  2. the new (some call it "fake") Yankee Stadium - I think the NHL would love it. Rangers vs. Montreal is the rumor I've heard. I'm a Devils fan and a Mets fan, but I'd go to the Bronx for this one.

    But Yankee Stadium is getting involved with College Football (the likes of Notre Dame, Army, Rutgers) and is almost signed on to have a College Bowl game the week after Christmas. That pretty much eliminates Yankee Stadium hosting an NHL game on New Year's Day. And this isn't the same place as the old Yankee Stadium, which had all the history.

    Bottom Line - Maybe they can work something out to push back the Bowl game by a year and play hockey instead. But it may be too late. Yankee Stadium may have to wait for the Bowl's contract to end before getting an NHL game.

  3. Citi Field - The Wilpon family, Mets ownership, have come out and said they'd be interested. They almost had a football game last November, so we know they're interested in things besides baseball. But I've read that the NHL doesn't think the venue is "sexy enough" for what they're looking for. I can't really see Citi Field in the same company as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, but aside from the destructed Yankee Stadium, I don't see who else could go in that company. If you want the game in or near New York City, this may be the place.

    If it happens, I'll go. I'm sure a lot of you will too. Who would we see on the ice? Citi Field is in Queens, which is part of New York City (remember, New York City is more than just Manhattan), so the Rangers must be involved. But Queens is also part of the sandbar called Long Island, which has its own hockey team (for now). So the Islanders should be involved too. Again, the NHL's TV partner, NBC, doesn't want the low rated Islanders cluttering up their telecast (like the Devils, the Islanders are a small market team in the larget TV market), and they really don't want two teams from the same market playing in this contest, so someone may be complaining in the end.

    But let's play this out. How about a home-and-home matchup between the Rangers and Islanders? Keep the ice up all winter and let the Isles play a few games there after the New Year. Maybe move in full time (it's not quite the Lighthouse project). Do you think Howie Rose would get confused calling a hockey game from the same broadcast booth where he calls Mets games from? What about the NBA getting into the act and playing a New Year's night game at the Tennis Center for a Queens sports winter time doubleheader?

    Bottom Line - Having a game at Citi Field seems to me that it's the most likely scenario for NYC, but I'm just not sure who would be involved.

  4. Others: Hofstra Stadium (diagonally across the street from the Islanders' home on Long Island), Ichan Stadium (on Randall's Island), Red Bull Arena (a new soccer venue in Harrison, NJ, not far from the Devils' arena in Newark) - Well, if Citi Field wasn't "sexy enough", then we can pretty much cross these off the list too.

  5. What about Central Park? Don't they have a hockey rink? It would be a different type of venue to set up for an NHL game. Hmm...

With all that said, I'd love to be able to go to an outdoor hockey game and support the Devils, but a New Year's trip to Queens would be fun too. I would have loved to see hockey at Shea (I'm too young to even remember football at Shea). But I think Minnesota should be the next host. They have a new outdoor baseball stadium opening up in April to showcase, and they're crazy about their hockey (on the top with New England). It could be another case for College Hockey on the ballfield.

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