Missouri is hosting what’s become one of the premier sports events in North America. The 9th annual Winter Classic NHL hockey game will be played Monday outdoors at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The contest is considered one of the league’s leading events, producing some of its highest attendance and TV ratings.
It’s also expected to be an economic boon for the region, generating an estimated $18.5 million – $9.6 million from direct activity at Busch Stadium, and $8.9 million from indirect spending in the region.
Anthony Paraino with Explore St. Louis says the event gives the city an opportunity to shine under the spotlight. “St. Louis is going to be, really, the center of the hockey world for one day” said Paraino. “We’re just really excited about the opportunity to showcase St. Louis, showcase our region and showcase everything Missouri has to offer visitors and guests.”
The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission estimates crowds of 45,000 for the Winter Classic as well as the NHL “Legions” Alumni Classic which takes place the day before.
Paraino says a special effort’s been made to present a festive atmosphere. “There’s banners up and down the downtown (area) welcoming fans to the game, and events and concerts and all kinds of things that are really going to be just a lot of fun for people to experience when they come in.”
He further notes the event places the region in front of a mass audience. “Its great exposure for our region to have such a national stage, to showcase Busch Stadium, showcase the Blues, showcase our downtown” said Paraino. “And with The Arch in the backdrop, it’s going to be just a classic image and just a wonderful day.”
The event is billed as the centerpiece to the St. Louis Blues’ season long celebration marking its 50th year in the National Hockey League.
The franchise began play as an expansion team in the 1967-68 season. In honor of the event, the Blues will play the game in throw-back jerseys patterned after the one they wore in their inaugural season.
The contest at Busch Stadium, the home the St. Louis Cardinals, will be the fifth time in nine games that the Winter Classic will have been played in a baseball stadium. The venue joins two of the most legendary baseball stadiums in hosting the event – Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Winter Classic is promoted as a return to the sport’s outdoor roots, meant to capture memories of pond hockey. It’ll be preceded by another outdoor hockey game over the same weekend as the NHL Centennial Classic will take place Sunday, New Year’s Day, in Toronto.