Time is right for Pens-Flyers at Beaver Stadium
If you were one of the 6,222 at Pegula Ice Arena on Sept. 19 for the NHL game between the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and Terry Pegula’s Buffalo Sabres, you know how electric the atmosphere was.
And it was a preseason game.
Sure, Pegula was packed with mostly Penguins fans. However, there were plenty of Sabres fans as well. We also saw jerseys from around the NHL – the Flyers, Devils and Rangers were represented.
So why are we talking about hockey a week after the game? It’s simple – the time is right to play the Winter Classic at Beaver Stadium.
The National Hockey League should have the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins meet in the Winter Classic – and soon.
The Penguins are one of the most popular teams in the NHL and an intrastate battle between the Pens and their hated rival, the Flyers, would be the biggest – and best – Winter Classic to date.
Penn State’s Beaver Stadium is the perfect locale for a battle between the Penguins and Flyers. State College is smack dab in the middle of Pittsburgh and Philly. And although students would be home for semester break, we’re guessing quite a few of those who trot around Happy Valley with Penguins and Flyers jerseys would come back to watch the rivals play.
The last football game of any college season is played at Beaver Stadium in November. That gives the NHL well over a month to ready Beaver Stadium for the annual event. The NHL experience could be set up in one of the many parking lots that surround Beaver Stadium and the NHL could make use of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park as well as the Bryce Jordan Center to house events that run in conjunction with the Winter Classic.
The Penguins and Flyers have each appeared in the Winter Classic. The teams met last season in Stadium Series Game at Heinz Field. The time has definitely come for this meeting to take place in an even bigger venue. A neutral setting like Beaver Stadium is perfect.
There are critics who will tell you that the Winter Classic will never work at Beaver Stadium.
Even with bowl games on New Year’s Day, fans will still pile into Beaver Stadium to watch the Classic. There’s not a bad seat in place. You’ll have more than 100,000 watching a hockey game on New Year’s Day in State College.
Can State College handle the crowd that will come with the Winter Classic? Of course it can. During the fall, there are seven or eight Saturdays when Beaver Stadium is packed. There will be plenty of hotel rooms available around New Year’s Day. Since football season will be over for a few months, the timing couldn’t be better.
So the wild cards here are the NHL and Penn State, of course. The NHL would have to OK the Penguins playing in the Classic for a record third time. Penn State would have to sign off on turning over the hallowed ground of Beaver Stadium to the NHL. As we saw with Happy Valley Jam, non-football event can succeed at Beaver Stadium.
This is something that should happen in the very near future. It would be an event like no other.