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Hosting 2017 NHL Winter Classic huge boost for St. Louis

by Jeremy Karp

It was announced earlier in the week that Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, will (for the first time) host the 2017 NHL Winter Classic. And the game is sure to be a classic, as it features the St. Louis Blues and their Western Conference rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Immediately after the announcement was made, thousands of fans of both of the Cardinals and Blues, became ecstatic with joy, in what many consider to be a long overdue honor to host such a prestigious game in the National Hockey League.

But most importantly, Busch Stadium hosting the 2017 Winter Classic does something the city really can appreciate, especially as of late: it makes the city of St. Louis feel respected again. When former Blues player Brett Hull, alongside Blues CEO Tom Stillman and Cardinals President Bill DeWitt Jr. announced to a packed Scottrade Center crowd that Busch Stadium would host the 2017 NHL Winter Classic, the crowd went absolutely went wild.

“I can tell you that probably the question I’ve been asked the most over the last 3 1/2 years has been when are we going to get a Winter Classic,” Stillman said. “Well, that may be ‘when are we going to do something else (win a Stanley Cup) might be the first, but it’s been something that our fans have been focused on for a long time and have wanted to do.

“I think the whole area, even fans who are kind of marginal St. Louis fans, are going to see what a big event this is. It’s going to be great.”

And the event will also be taking place during a historic season, as 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of the St. Louis Blues, and the 100th season in the National Hockey League. Stillman had attended the Winter Classic that was held at Wrigley Field in the past. And he praised the type of experience and event it is, and can bring to any city.

“I was at the one at Wrigley and it’s just a great event,” Stillman said. “I’ve never talked to anybody who’s been to one who didn’t say that was the greatest sports event I’ve ever been to.”

However, the question is: what led to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman awarding the Winter Classic to St. Louis, especially since there are other viable options?

Well, one event took place in downtown St. Louis two months ago that could have sealed the deal.

When Stillman and DeWitt Jr., both in their opposite’s jackets, performed the ceremonious puck drop in front of a crowd coming off the heels of losing their second football team in 30 years. The ovation the two gentleman had was unlike any other, and Stillman says that might have been it.

“I had a conversation with him right after that and I think he was impressed,” Stillman said. “Beyond the events of earlier that week, seeing that ceremony on video and the reaction of the fans and the unity of the two franchises in support of the city… I think that influenced the decision, and Gary, personally.

The bottom-line is: St. Louis is a united city, bonded together in many ways. And now, as a reward, the Gateway City will be home to the Winter Classic.

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