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On January 1st, 2019 the NHL officially announced that the Dallas Stars will host the 2020 NHL Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl. For many, Texas and hockey aren’t two words usually used in the same sentence. This is especially considering the state of dysfunction among the franchise recently, as it was just last month that Stars CEO Jim Lite directed this season’s frustrations on franchise cornerstones Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
“What nobody says is what is completely obvious to me: We are getting terrible play from our top two players,” Lites told Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News.
Since Jim Lites’ public tirade, the Dallas Stars have gone 5-6, with Seguin (7 goals, 6 assists, 13 points) leading the way in 11 games to give the franchise some hope entering the break with a playoff spot.
Amid controversy and a culture of mediocrity, the Stars are feeling the pressure of possibly missing the postseason for a third straight season. This resulted in GM Jim Nill trading Devin Shore to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Andrew Cogliano, a player-for-player deal that allowed the Ducks to get younger and the Stars received a seasoned veteran leader. The acquisition of Cogliano shows that Nill is prepared to make a deal before the deadline, but could only be the beginning for a busy 2019 trade season.
As the Dallas Stars look to continue their momentum from the break, we look ahead to the 2020 Winter Classic and the significance it will have on the state of Texas.
The Significance of the Winter Classic for Dallas
Hockey is a cold-weather sport, and Texas is not usually thought of as a cold-weather state, especially when considering that most summer months are above 100 degrees. For Dallas though, typically January averages about 47 degrees, which is enough to hold some ice inside the Cotton Bowl without completely melting like most northerners might think.
The 2020 Winter Classic will be the first outdoor NHL game to be hosted in a southern state, opening new ventures for the Stars and the city of Dallas as they look to showcase the growth of hockey in Texas, as well as reach new audiences.
The Cotton Bowl is a historic stadium that opened in 1930 at the site of the State Fair of Texas, primarily used to host the Cotton Bowl Classic and Red River Showdown between the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns. The first NHL outdoor game at the Cotton Bowl will most likely utilize the fairgrounds for fan interactive events to help promote how special the Winter Classic truly is.
Depending on the success or failure of the Dallas’ first Winter Classic, it will have an impact on whether or not the game returns sooner rather than later, as well as the impact it will have on future southern teams hosting the Classic like Nashville or Tampa Bay.
Possible Opponents for the Dallas Stars
Since the NHL announced Dallas as hosts, no opponent has been named but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that they would be “taking all suggestions”.
- Buffalo Sabres
In a possible 1999 Stanley Cuprematch, seeing the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars battling it out in their respective throwbacks would bring back nostalgia for Dallas fans as the likes of Mike Modano reminiscing about the Stars’ first and only Cup win. The Stars will face off against the Buffalo Sabres on January 30th as both teams come out of the All-Star break.
- Edmonton Oilers
With a long history of post-season matchups in the 90’s, an NHL marquee player in Conner McDavid could make for great TV ratings. The season matchup between these teams are currently split 1-1, with the final matchup coming on March 28th.
- Minnesota Wild
Among further attendance woes and bitter controversy during the 1992-1993 season, the once Minnesota North Stars were relocated to Dallas as the Stars. With the NHL promising Minnesota an expansion team in the future, that was fulfilled when the Wild came into the league in 2000. This seaso, the matchup has the Stars and Wild tied at 1-1, with 2 more games coming later this season.
- Nashville Predators
With the Predators having recent success with their first Stanley Cup appearance in 2017, it could be an interesting matchup between two teams that aren’t in large hockey markets to showcase how talented hockey can be in the south. The season matchup between “Smashville” and the Stars is tied 1-1, with 3 more games against one another in the month of February.
The Winter Classic will be an important spectacle for Dallas and the NHL, as both hope to expand the market in a state where football dominates.
Featured Image: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports