Winter Classic Returns to Primetime on Jan. 2 (UPDATED)

Posted by | June 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM

The NHL Winter Classic will undergo a pair of major changes next season, one of which could very well be permanent.

The 2012 NHL Winter Classic will feature the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers from Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, according to multiple reports. With January 1 featuring a full slate of NFL action, the game will reportedly be scheduled for January 2 on NBC.

Newsday reports the game will air at 8:00 PM ET, the first time the Winter Classic has ever been scheduled for primetime. Last year’s game was scheduled for 1 PM ET, but moved to primetime due to rain.

The Winter Classic will have very little college football competition on January 2, as there are no bowl games scheduled for that night. The conclusion of the Rose Bowl, which has a 5:00 PM ET start, will likely air opposite the game during the 8:00 PM hour.

While the Winter Classic is likely to move back to January 1 in 2013, expect the primetime start to be a long-lasting change. Last year’s primetime Winter Classic was the most-viewed ever, and there is far less competition from the New Year’s Day college football bowls than in the early afternoon.

The 2011-12 NHL schedule is expected to be released this week.

UPDATED 6/23/11: The 2011-12 NHL schedule was released on Thursday, and the Winter Classic is scheduled for a 1 PM ET start.

(Information from the New York Times, Newsday via Sports Business Daily)