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The South should celebrate its hockey heritage at Tropicana Field

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By John. Yes, THAT John....

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Heritage Classic is a series of outdoor games played in the National Hockey League (NHL). Three games have been played in the series [...] To date, the match-ups have been exclusively between Canadian teams and the event serves as a counterpart to the Winter Classic ...

From Wikipedia article on the Heritage Classic

Uh, excuse me... Hi! I couldn't stop thinking of heritage and applying the phrase to ice hockey in Florida, or more specifically the greater Tampa Bay metropolitan market. The more I thought about it, the more fitting and applicable to a series like the Heritage Classic the Tampa Bay Lightning happen to be.

Stop laughing. Oh, you're just pissed off? Okay, step back. I'm not trying to tick people off (though it's going to happen) as so much celebrate the sport of hockey...in Tampa Bay.

That's still not going to sit well with Canadians or those of the most northern markets. A Heritage Classic game is played in very climate friendly markets where an outdoor game in the fall is very much able to the coolness of autumn. Hockey wasn't born in the winter, after all. Fall in Canada does get cold enough to host a hockey game.

Year Season Date City Stadium Away Team Score

Attend.

2003 2003–04 November 22 Edmonton, Alberta Commonwealth Stadium Montreal Canadiens 4–3 57,167
2011 2010–11 February 20 Calgary, Alberta McMahon Stadium Montreal Canadiens 0–4 41,022
2014 2013–14 March 2 Vancouver, British Columbia BC Place Ottawa Senators 4–2 54,194
2016 2016–17 October 23 Winnipeg, Manitoba Investors Group Field Edmonton Oilers 3-0 33,240

Yet, in concept, this is the type of mentality that's perfect for an event game in the Tampa Bay region. Yes, I mean it, the west central region of Florida as a site for a Heritage Classic event.

I'm not trying to offend with that suggestion or steal the event from Canada, but I am trying to do what the Heritage Classic itself does: Celebrate the game. The big difference with this celebration event is that the game would be played in a very non-traditional market: in the south, and inside.

See, there is a heritage with the sport that has been embraced in Florida (and other southern markets for that matter). The whole difference between me citing Tampa Bay and not Miami or Carolina or Western Conference teams is part of our heritage in the Tampa / St. Petersburg market was witnessing and embracing the game at an indoor venue that helped gestate the NHL in Florida and other non-traditional markets. Games with large crowds in the Bay area were common and part of our heritage.

I'm not expecting the wider NHL to embrace the idea of Tropicana Field hosting a Heritage Classic game, but that building is our heritage with the game. It created the first positive market judgments and showed that Tampa Bay could indeed revel in a very nontraditional sport for the market.

Tropicana Field playing host to a Heritage Classic in the market is a no-brainer (well, if the Tampa Bay Rays miss the playoffs). That's partly because of our history with the game and how important the building was as Thunderdome in the 1990s and venue size for hockey (going north of 22,000 and as high as 29,000+). That St. Pete location was the start of our history with the sport; both participating in the NHL and selling the market, state and league on hockey in Florida. It's a part of why hockey is here; it part of why hockey is successful in Tampa Bay.

Yeah, the Trop wouldn't be an optimum venue to host a hockey game (and wasn't in 1993 thru 1996); sightlines are off, the stadium is in an out-of-the-way location, the building is not optimum for this, that, and the other thing reason. Basically they're aspects that apply to all too many event games in nontraditional venues (the outdoor games in football stadiums in the US or Canada). The difference between hosting this event at the Dome compared to a more traditional market is the ability to climate-control the Dome to make sure the venue is cold enough (yet temperate enough) to appeal to attendants.

The AC is our heritage, just like playing outdoor games up north is the heritage of hockey in its traditional markets. One way we are traditional, though, is how much we love this game and embrace the sport.