The news shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s still just as disappointing: The 2021 Winter Classic has been officially postponed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally scheduled for Jan. 1, 2021, the NHL’s annual outdoor game to ring in the New Year has been pushed to 2022. The announcement also noted that the 2021 All-Star Weekend scheduled for Jan. 29-30, 2021, which was to be hosted by the Panthers, also has been postponed.
“Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended,” NHL senior executive vice president & chief content officer Steve Mayer said in the league’s statement.
“We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”
While the NHL did not state that the teams would just host their respective 2022 event, it did ensure that the marque events would return to these locales in the “near future.”
The NHL’s announcement also stressed that the previously released start date of Jan. 1 for the next NHL season is still on target to occur. As commissioner Gary Bettman stated during his annual Stanley Cup press conference, “It’s conceivable that we start without fans, that we move to socially distant fans at some point and by some point in time, maybe, our buildings are open. … How we start doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how we have to finish.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2021 Winter Classic’s postponement.
Where was the 2021 Winter Classic supposed to be played?
The game was set to be played at Target Field in Minneapolis — otherwise known as the home of MLB’s Minnesota Twins. Opened in 2010, the stadium seats 39,504 and was the home of MLB’s 2014 All-Star Game. It would have served as the seventh baseball stadium to host the Winter Classic.
Named the Sports Facility of the Year in 2011 by the Sports Business Journal and ranked the top baseball fan experience by ESPN the Magazine in 2010, Target Field has also hosted an international soccer match (2016) and two NCAA football games (2017 and 2019).
“The Minnesota Wild is truly honored to be selected to host the 2021 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic,” Wild owner Craig Leipold said in a statement when the location was announced at the 2020 Winter Classic. “Target Field is a fantastic ballpark and there is no better place for the NHL’s marquee event than right here in the State of Hockey. We are grateful for the opportunity to treat our fans to an incredibly unique and exciting experience celebrating our favorite game.”
Who was scheduled to play in the 2021 Winter Classic?
The Minnesota Wild were tapped as the host of the 2021 event and were to play the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
It would have marked the first Winter Classic appearance for the Wild and the franchise’s second outdoor game; the team played in the 2016 Stadium Series and defeated the Blackhawks 6-1 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
St. Louis previously played in the marquee event in 2017 when the team handed Chicago a 4-1 loss at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
“[Minnesota Wild owner] Craig Leipold has been, to say persistent would be a gross understatement, over the last few years wanting to host a Winter Classic, and we’re excited to go,” Bettman said during the second intermission of the 2020 event, per NHL.com. “My guess is the temperature there is about 30 degrees cooler than it is here right now (54.9 Fahrenheit), but it should make for a great experience in the State of Hockey.”
Is the game canceled or postponed?
The NHL used the term “postponed” for the 2021 game; however, the league’s statement did say, “we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022.” So, technically, it’s postponed until next year, which is when another Winter Classic would have, in theory, taken place anyway.
Previous Winter Classic venues and attendance
This season would have marked the 13th Winter Classic game. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins won the first-ever game in a shootout back in 2008. The last time the annual event did not take place was in 2013 because of a lockout.