NHL at PSU is cool idea

Penn State is entertaining the idea of hosting an outdoor National Hockey League game at Beaver Stadium as early as 2014.

The NHL has staged its “Winter Classic” five times since 2008 at outdoor venues, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have participated in two of them, including the first one in 2008 against the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo and the 2011 Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh against the Washington Capitals.

Of the five Classics staged thus far, the ones involving the Penguins have drawn the best – 71,217 in Buffalo and 68,111 at Heinz Field.

Beaver Stadium could actually set a world record for attendance should the event come to pass, although Michigan Stadium is set to host the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs in February.

The current world record for hockey attendance – 104,173 – was set in 2010 at Michigan Stadium in the “Big Chill” game between Michigan and rival Michigan State. That game drew 104,173 fans, setting the world record for hockey attendance.

Michigan Stadium, the biggest in the country, seats 109,901. Beaver Stadium has the second-biggest capacity at 106,572.

Penn State Athletic Director Dave Joyner said he’s informally discussed the possibility of hosting a game in 2014 with Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers.

Imagine the statewide and national interest a Flyers-Penguins matchup could generate at Beaver Stadium. If ever there was a natural draw, that would be it, although Sabres owner Terry Pegula should be consulted to offer his blessing.

Pegula’s $102 million donation to PSU – the largest gift in school history – allowed Penn State to upgrade its men’s program and build a state-of-the-art arena that will open in October.

A Sabres vs. Penguins or Sabres vs. Flyers game would be attractive to the region, but neither would not deliver the same passion as a statewide rivalry like the Flyers vs. Penguins. Fans who have been robbed of the Penn State-Pitt football series can attest to that.

There are many logistics to work out, particularly since Beaver Stadium has never hosted hockey, but the possibilities are intriguing – so is the economic boon that accompanies potentially having 110,000 on a winter weekend in State College.

The spillover to Altoona and Blair County hotels and restaurants also could provide a welcome revenue injection.

We hope the NHL and Penn State can button down the details in what would be a historic event for central Pennsylvania.