Better With Popcorn

Penn State Expressed Interest In A Winter Classic Between Penguins, Flyers

Ever since the Winter Classic was introduced in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Buffalo Sabres in a blizzard, fans in the Tri State area have fantasized about a match-up between the Flyers and Penguins in the most perfect setting.

That fantasy setting is Happy Valley and it may become a reality in the near future.

Penn State officials confirmed with WJACTV that the school is seriously considering an outdoor game to host an NHL team, or at least their own Nittany Lions in Big Ten action.

Ever since Penn State's hockey team became a Division 1 sports, hockey has exploded in Happy Valley. They played Neumann College on January 4, 2012, losing 6-3.

It has become the most recent catalyst in getting a Flyers/Penguins game at Beaver Stadium.

With the NHL dishing out half a dozen outdoor games next season, the likelihood of seeing the Flyers in their third Winter Classic as well as Pittsburgh in their fourth (they'll play in an outdoor game next season) has increased.

Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien was asked about it and he seems to be in favor of the idea.

“I'd be all for that. I've told [Athletic Director] Dave Joyner that,” O’Brien said at Friday’s Coaches vs. Cancer golf outing. “I feel very strongly about our basketball programs and our hockey programs. I think to play a hockey game in Beaver Stadium in January or in late December would be great for this area.”

The Buffalo Sabres are also in the mix for playing in Beaver Stadium as well as Notre Dame, Boston College and Michigan for the college game. Greg Whyshynski writes on that:

Associate Athletic Director Joe Battista, head of PSU hockey operations, mentioned Notre Dame, Boston College or Michigan as the NCAA possibilities; and he thought some combination of the Flyers, Penguins and Buffalo Sabres could play there for the NHL.

(If you’re wondering why the Sabres would be in the mix, please note that the Pegula Ice Arena will be opening on the campus of Penn State this year, and that Terry Pegula’s $88 million donation to the school is the reason there’s a hockey program.)

Pegula is the owner of the Buffalo Sabres and a combiniation of Sabres/Penguins Part 2 or Sabres/Flyers is a possibility.

Security and parking would be the major issues though. You put 100,000 Penguins and Flyers fans in one place there is a guarantee for some off-ice pleasantries. 

The other challenge is preparing the stadium, which Battista thinks the most optimum time for this would be in December as opposed to the traditional New Year's Day kick-off.

"[Parking is] one problem and the other is we usually winterize the stadium, so we'd probably play in December before we did that."

With all those challenges in place, PSU officials know what needs to be done if they want this game to happen. They remain optimistic, which is a good sign for the fans.


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