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The scene at the 2008 NHL Winter Classic (Penguins vs. Sabres) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York.
The scene at the 2008 NHL Winter Classic (Penguins vs. Sabres) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York.

Dallas Set to Host NHL Outdoor Showcase in 2020

The Cotton Bowl will be cool again in a little less than a year — literally and figuratively. Fair Park's grand old stadium will host the NHL's 2020 Winter Classic next New Year's Day, becoming the 12th venue to host the league's mid-season showcase.

The Stars will be the host team for the event. The league has yet to decide on an opponent for the team's first-ever outdoor game. 

"The entire Stars organization is honored to be selected by the NHL to host the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," Stars owner Tom Gaglardi said. "Cotton Bowl Stadium is one of the most iconic and recognizable sports venues in the United States. For nearly a century, the stadium has hosted premier sporting events and has featured some of the greatest players ever to play their sport. The city of Dallas and the entire Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has become a destination for the world's biggest sporting events, and hosting the NHL Winter Classic will continue that trend."

Next year's shindig will bring life back to Fair Park during a time of year when the park desperately needs it. Since losing its namesake game in 2009, Cotton Bowl Stadium has sat mostly empty during the winter months, even when it's hosted the game now known as the First Responders Bowl

In 2018, the always sparsely attended game wasn't even played to completion as officials decided to abandon it in the middle of the first quarter after a series of lightning strikes near Fair Park.

The Winter Classic promises to be a much bigger deal for Dallas. Each of the 11 previous editions of the NHL's year-beginner have been attended by at least 38,000, with a league record 105,491 fans watching the Toronto Maple Leafs down the Detroit Red Winds at Michigan Stadium in 2014. (A crowd of 76,126 watched Boston's 4-2 victory over Chicago on Tuesday at a sold-out Notre Dame Stadium.)

The Cotton Bowl Stadium's football capacity is 92,000, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday its hockey capacity could be closer to 80,000, according to ESPN.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Tuesday that the Winter Classic will continue the Fair Park tradition built during the Cotton Bowl's long run in Dallas.

"I can't think of a better way to celebrate the great history of New Year's Day at Cotton Bowl Stadium than by welcoming thousands of fans to witness the first ever outdoor professional hockey game in Texas," Rawlings said. "This great event is yet another example of how Dallas continues to be one of the most sought-after locations to host major sports events."

In recent years, Rawlings' city has hosted the NCAA women's Final Four, the annual game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma during the State Fair and the NHL draft. Dallas' big sports event list gets more impressive if Arlington-hosted happenings are included. In the last decade, the suburb has hosted World Series games, a Super Bowl, a College Football Playoff championship, the NCAA men's Final Four and an NBA All-Star Game, in addition to the Cotton Bowl itself.

The Winter Classic, on sheer novelty if nothing else, should help Dallas fight back in 2020. 

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