Of all the grand hockey events that could be awarded by the powers-that-be to the Tampa Bay area by the International Ice Hockey Federation or the National Hockey League, the one impossibility in the NHL Winter Classic.
The NHL All-Star game has been here before (1999) and likely will be again sometime in the future (stop dangling the carrot and kicking the can down the road, Gary). The NHL entry draft has never been held in Tampa before but the possibility is distinctly there - it's just a matter of time. The draft isn't a game-played but an executive event though; different atmosphere.
The IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, played in late December through January, is a tricky beast as the bidding process doesn't go through the IIHF itself but USA Hockey, and traditionally USA Hockey tries to draw in Canadians by way of hosting the tournament near the border. That subject, Tampa Bay hosting the WJCs, has been talked about before here and it's something the Lightning organization has expressed interest in hosting.
The IIHF World Championships, played in the spring, is a difficult beast; the games are played during the NHL and NBA playoffs. Venue availability is in question because the World Championships are handed out years down the road and there is no certainty a building wouldn't be in use for playoff games. Could you imagine the conflicts that would come up if a US or Canadian city were awarded the tournament years in advance and the year they hosted, their team in question made a playoff run? This is the reason you hear about the tournament being played in Europe most of the time. It's improbable, but not impossible for a World Championships tournament to come to Tampa Bay / west central Florida. It's very unlikely, but not impossible.
Winter Classic though? Not happening. Never.
Before you get bent out of shape, there's a basic fact at play here that has got to be realized: An outdoor game is impossible unless the game was going to be held in a minor league baseball park (which the NHL would never due - it'd loose too much money that way); Raymond James Stadium is booked on New Year's Day with the Outback Bowl. That pretty much puts an end to Winter Classic dreams.
The NHL's Stadium Series is another story, and another question.
I'm not keen on wide outdoor games being played like last winter where they seemed to pop up all over the east and west coast. I sort of took a jab at it last year when we were informed that Raymond James Stadium officials had been approached about the logistical possibilities of putting down a sheet of ice on the football field. The idea of an outdoor game is not what bugs me, but the idea of too-many outdoor games a season does. The Winter Classic and the Heritage Classic (played in Canada) are fine and good and are taking foothold as traditions. Having a multitude of games played outdoors a season cheapens them and they become just another outdoor game.
That being said, if there's a second outdoor game each season - just one - then I'm fine with the idea. While Tampa Bay could never host the Winter Classic, there's the possibility of hosting a Stadium Series game. The question is where should it be held: Raymond James Stadium as a true outdoor game, or Tropicana Field as a nostalgic Thunderdome event?
It would seem baseball parks are sooner sought to host games than football fields. While Heintz Field in Pittsburgh hosted the Winter Classic in 2011, the Big House hosted in 2014 and how Soldier Field has hosted an outdoor game as well (Hockey City Classic)l as how Levis' Stadium in Santa Clara will host a Stadium Series game next month, the idea of hosting an outdoor game at RJS and the buzz it'd create locally would be immense - the physical challenge of a hockey rink outside in Florida, the potential attendance total for such a game...
Yet wouldn't it be more of a throwback, more nostalgic, more of a classic if the game was in St. Petersburg at the Trop? For five years of the early days of of the Tampa Bay Lightning, that would-be-baseball stadium was home and drew fans far and wide to watch the Bolts. The sightlines weren't great, but that's a truth for any baseball stadium hosting an ice rink instead of a baseball diamond. And it's worth noting the environmental challenge wouldn't exist like it would at RJS - the climate conditions are controlled at the Trop, though that does take fans away from the outdoor game experience.
Humor me in comments - make a case for either venue. If the Lightning were to host a Stadium Series game, which building would you rather it be in?