The Minnesota Wild, with 43 points, is tops in the league right now, and I do believe they are for real. Maybe that means we'll get an outdoor game in Minnesota, though I'm not sure where they would play it. I suppose the safe money would be Target Field, where the Twins play. Even though the configuration can be a little weird, I do prefer Winter Classic games to be played in baseball stadiums. Baseball fields are generally just much more scenic than football stadiums with the outfield seats generally opening up to a downtown scene or something similar. Not to mention that baseball stadiums tend to be more architecturally pleasing to start with. But, all that said, I wonder if they would play the game at the University of Minnesota's new football stadium.
As far as a seating boost, that would still definitely be present, even if Minnesota isn't exactly Michigan or Penn St. The Xcel Center where the Wild usually plays seats just over 18,000. Target Field holds just a bit under 40,000. TCF Bank Stadium (the Gophers' digs, if you hadn't worked that out yourself) holds right at 50,000. For a state that considers itself the capital of American hockey, I would imagine they would be able to sell out just about any venue you could come up with. And it might be kind of cool to see if a little bit of a collegiate atmosphere would bleed through. It may not, I don't think it particularly did when the Vikings played a game there after the Metrodome spectacularly failed.
In any case, Minnesota deserves a shot at an outdoor game. And now the Wild are relevant and good, so what better time than next year? And the opponent is easy. Bring Dallas back to town, the original Minnesota team, maybe even have them wear some North Stars throwbacks. Minnesota would go nuts for the game, and I think a lot of the rest of the nation would get hooked into it as well.
As it is, we'll be treated to the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, which is a fine enough game. Philly has played in this game before, but it's their first turn hosting it. Citizens Bank Ballpark will be a very good venue. The Rangers are an Original Six team and all. It's not a bad match up. But it's not a particularly compelling one, either. Additionally, the hosts so far have been Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, and now Philadelphia. Other than Chicago, it's pretty easterly biased, you think? And the west has been totally ignored.* Still, I'm definitely looking forward to the game. It's become an annual tradition for me and my brother, at least.
*Though you try playing hockey outdoors in Phoenix or LA and see how that works out for you. If we're keeping it just to US teams (as Canadian teams have the Heritage Classic), it seems the furthest west you're going to be able to do this is Denver. Maybe San Jose. According to the city's website, the temperature averages in the 50's in the winter, and the NHL's refrigeration trucks are good for making ice up to 60 degrees, if I remember right. It seems like it would be pushing it, though.