Winter Classic dreams: Five games we want

It is OK to dream. It is OK to pretend the NHL will actually function again one day. And it’s definitely acceptable to relish the thought of future outdoor games.

With that in mind, here are five Winter Classic matchups I would love to see over the next decade, outside of the matchup we expect is coming in January 2014 between Toronto at Detroit:

1. Vancouver Canucks at Minnesota Wild

Take your pick of hosting it at either TCF Bank Stadium (Golden Gophers football stadium) or Target Field (Twins baseball). And why not, while we’re at it, host a huge outdoor hockey tourney on Lake Minnetonka in conjunction with the Winter Classic game, given the passion for the sport of hockey in Minnesota. It would be part of the festival. If the Wild are made to wait more than a few years to get their game, I might suggest switching in the Edmonton Oilers as the visitors; by then the young-and-gun Oil might be a better fit. Or perhaps even the Chicago Blackhawks or Winnipeg Jets.

2. Boston Bruins at New York Rangers

I know some people have this dream about playing it in Central Park, but I think it’s more realistic to aim for Yankee Stadium. Maybe have Kevin Youkilis drop the puck? Sorry Red Sox fans, too soon? NBC would obviously drool over this matchup. And it’s almost a guarantee it will happen over the next five years, and why not?

3. Detroit Red Wings at Colorado Avalanche

OK, we might be getting tired of the Wings in the Winter Classic, but for the alumni game itself, don’t we need these two teams? Mike Vernon and Patrick Roy renew hostilities in the alumni game? Kris Draper and Claude Lemieux at center ice? Regardless of the opposition, a Winter Classic in Denver would rock. The Avs are a young team on the rise. Adrian Dater of the Denver Post says if there was ever a Winter Classic in Denver, the venue that would make the most sense is Sports Authority Field at Mile High, home of the Broncos. I agree.

4. Los Angeles Kings or Vancouver Canucks at San Jose Sharks

What, you don’t think the NHL’s super-duper ice system can go south? It sure can. And by the way, it’s not that warm in the Bay Area on Jan. 1. I think the area would make this event proud. And further, I believe the Sharks deserve to be recognized for being one of the best-run organizations over the past 20 years. You could play the game at the new 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, slated to open in 2014, or at AT&T Park (Giants) in San Francisco. Either way, I think a Winter Classic in northern California would be mighty cool.

5. Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks at Lambeau Field in Green Bay

Come on, you don’t think this would be cool? You certainly wouldn’t have to generate any fake snow for this game, that’s for sure. Given that the Blackhawks and Wings have already partaken in a game each, you’d have to wait several years before you did this one. But it would be worth the wait.