The Winter Classic is headed to the State of Hockey.
The Minnesota Wild will host the 2021 NHL Winter Classic at Target Field on Jan. 1, 2021, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Wednesday.
“(Wild owner) Craig Leopold has been, to say persistent would be a gross understatement, over the last few years wanting to host a Winter Classic, and we’re excited to go,” Commissioner Bettman said during the second intermission of the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Wednesday. “My guess is the temperature there is about 30 degrees cooler than it is here right now (54.9 Fahrenheit), but it should make for a great experience in the State of Hockey.”
Commissioner Bettman said an opponent for the game will be announced in the next few months.
“We are focused on a few teams, and we’re under no immediate pressure to make a decision,” Commissioner Bettman said. “We have plenty of really good candidates for this game. It’s not a one-shot decision based on one factor. We look at a whole host of things: rivalries, who’s playing well, geography, and that goes in the rivalry sense. What we think will make sense. Will some teams travel better than others to a particular market? That’s how we look at it.”
It’s the first time the Winter Classic will be held in Minnesota and the second time the Wild will play in a regular-season outdoor game; Minnesota hosted the Chicago Blackhawks in a Stadium Series game at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota on Feb. 21, 2016. The Wild won 6-1 in the first professional hockey game held outdoors in the state.
Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, will be the seventh Major League Baseball stadium to host the Winter Classic, and first since the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres played at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, in 2018. Busch Stadium in St. Louis (2017), Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (2015), Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia (2012), Fenway Park in Boston (2010) and Wrigley Field in Chicago (2009) have hosted the Winter Classic.
“The Minnesota Wild is truly honored to be selected to host the 2021 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic,” Leipold said in a statement. “Target Field is a fantastic ballpark and there is no better place for the NHL’s marquee event than right here in the State of Hockey. We are grateful for the opportunity to treat our fans to an incredibly unique and exciting experience celebrating our favorite game and would like to thank NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for his support and the Minnesota Twins organization for their help in securing this event.”
With Predators fans well represented in the crowd of 85,630 on Wednesday, Commissioner Bettman was asked about the possibility of Nashville hosting a future outdoor game.
“We’ve been focused on trying to do an outdoor game in Nashville, and not to point fingers at anybody, but it’s been difficult logistically in terms our ability to schedule, when we might want to schedule and that’s something we continue to work on,” Commissioner Bettman said. “But I would like to see an outdoor game in Nashville’s future at some point.”