Hockey in the South: 2020 NHL Winter Classic


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2020; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Roope Hintz (24) is chased by Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) during the third period in the 2020 Winter Classic hockey game at Cotton Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Scisci, Staff Writer

The NHL held its thirteenth annual Winter Classic, an outdoor game featuring two teams in a stadium that is usually used for a football or baseball. This year’s winter classic was between two southern teams, the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators. The history between these two teams is recent, with the Stars beating the Predators in overtime of game six of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. 

The Winter Classic  was held at the Cotton Bowl, a football stadium in Dallas, Texas that is used for the Texas State Fair, but more popularly is used for an annual postseason College Football game called the Cotton Bowl Classic, watched by millions of people every year on TV. The stadium was a near sellout for the game, with 85,630 filling up the 92,000 capacity stadium. 

The game got off to,, as winger Corey Perry got a game misconduct just 2:44 into the game for elbowing Predators’ defenseman Ryan Ellis in the head, resulting in a five minute power play for the Predators. The Predators took advantage of that power play, when Predators star Matt Duchene fired a shot over Dallas goalie Ben Bishop’s shoulder, giving Nashville a 1-0 lead, Defenseman Dante Fabbro added another tally for Nashville, giving them a 2-0 lead within the first eight minutes of the game.

The crowd rallied for their Stars to make a comeback, and after fierce determination and large amounts of possession of the puck, late in the second period winger Blake Comeau took a shot which found a way by Predators goalie Pekka Rinne to pull the Stars to within one. When the third period got underway, the Stars picked up where they left off, and scored just fifty-eight seconds into the third frame, when Matthias Janmark scored to tie the game at two on the powerp lay. Less than five minutes later, Dallas would add another marker to complete the comeback and take the lead when winger Alexander Radulov fired a one-timer above Rinne’s shoulder, giving Dallas the 3-2 lead. Just a minute and a half after Radulov’s goal, with the momentum favoring the home side, the Stars managed to tuck another goal past Rinne to make it 4-2, ultimately winning the game by that score. 

Even though Dallas were behind early, the strength and passion of the southern crowd was rampant and hopeful, which while it may surprise some people, shouldn’t. According to Station Index, a ranking website for global Television markets, Dallas ranks fifth among the United States in terms of Television markets, and how many people watch. 

This question of hockey in the south is widely disputed among the hockey community. However, while the south does have many other hockey teams, including the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and a few others, many people down south still even fail to recognize hockey as a southern sport, despite the numerous amounts of southern teams and the tens of thousands of fans who attend each game. 

One option for the NHL to achieve Southern exposure would be to create an expansion team in the Southern US. One of the discussed landing spots for an expansion team is the city of Houston, which is the largest city in the US which does not have an NHL team. Expansion to Houston will not only bring a slew of new fans from around the area, but also create a lot of hype around the thought of a new sports team for Houston sports fans to root for. Jeremy Jacobs, the owner of the Boston Bruins and chairman of the National Hockey League Board of Governors, when asked about the city of a potential expansion franchise, said, “Clearly the one area that is missing is Houston because that’s a great city”.