Citizens Bank Park to host Winter Classic

Citizens Bank Park will host the 2012 Winter Classic between the Flyers and Rangers. (David M Warren/Staff file photo)
Citizens Bank Park will host the 2012 Winter Classic between the Flyers and Rangers. (David M Warren/Staff file photo)
Posted: May 13, 2011

Snowflakes falling, the smell of crab fries sizzling in Old Bay and the sound of hockey pucks bouncing off the glass just a few feet from where Ryan Howard launches balls that make the Liberty Bell gyrate.

Those are just a few of things you can look forward to this winter at Citizens Bank Park.

The Winter Classic is coming to Philadelphia.

While a league source has confirmed that no contract has been signed, the Flyers will be hosting the NHL's annual outdoor game this winter at Citizens Bank Park, as first reported by the Daily News last month.

The likely opponent is the New York Rangers, though TSN's Darren Dreger reported yesterday that top-level sources inside the Rangers organization have no knowledge of the team's participation.

It will be the second time in the last 3 years that the Flyers will be involved in the league's most highly anticipated regular-season game, though it has only been in existence since 2008. The Flyers fell to the Bruins in overtime on Jan. 1, 2010, at Boston's venerable Fenway Park.

What remains up in the air is the date of the game. The Eagles are tentatively scheduled to take on the Washington Redskins on Jan. 1, 2012, at Lincoln Financial Field if the NFL's lockout is lifted. The NHL - and its television partner, NBC - has no interest in going head-to-head with the football ratings beast.

Dec. 31, 2011, and Jan. 2, 2012, are the remaining options for the game, which has been played on New Year's Day each of the first 4 years of the event - it has never fallen on a football Sunday before. Jan. 2, 2012, would be the observed holiday for New Year's since it falls on a Sunday next year. That would also be the better daytime television option.

However, the NHL experimented with a prime-time option this past year in Pittsburgh between the Penguins and Washington Capitals because weather prevented an outdoor afternoon contest. Could you imagine NBC shifting from a 5 p.m. Flyers-Rangers game straight to Times Square for its coverage of the ball drop on New Year's Eve? That's not a hard sell.

The NHL has said it will require both participating teams to open their locker rooms to HBO for the next series of its Emmy Award-winning documentary "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic."

That would be OK with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.

"I would rather avoid a camera than jump in front of one," Laviolette said on Feb. 12. "But I can tell you this: Man, I love that Winter Classic, and I sure would love to play in another one. For me that trumps all - even my own queasiness."

Many details remain to be worked out. Stay tuned.

Pronger, Versteeg surgeries

Two Flyers underwent what the team described as successful surgery yesterday.

Chris Pronger had a disc fragment in his back removed. General manager Paul Holmgren said the fragment was pressing against a nerve. Pronger will begin a walking rehab "in a few days" and in 6 weeks will begin core strengthening. The Flyers said "a full recovery is anticipated." He played in just 53 games this season.

Kris Versteeg had two tears in his abdominal wall repaired. He will begin rehab in 10 days.

On Wednesday, Mike Richards (torn cartilage in his left wrist), Blair Betts (left pinkie), Andrej Meszaros (torn cartilage in his right wrist) and Michael Leighton (torn hip labrum) had successful surgeries.

For more news and analysis, read

Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers.

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