I really think the NHL needs to rethink the Winter Classic.
For starters, I hate, hate, hate when it's hosted in baseball stadiums. I get that the baseball fields are unused, this time of year, and that NFL football stadiums aren't predictably-free because of playoffs. That said, there's a crap-ton of college football stadiums available. What's more, it's not even an argument to say "baseball stadiums are big": the largest baseball stadium doesn't even make the top 100 of the largest football stadiums in just the US (Anaheim's is like #122?). Worse, baseball stadiums' geometries pretty much ensure that there are zero seats that could be called meaningfully close to the play surface.
Supposedly, part of why the NHL puts these games on, in the first place, is they're big revenue-generators. Couldn't the NHL generate more revenue by having more seats available to sell? Wouldn't people be even more likely to buy seats if those seats were actually somewhat close to the ice? And don't talk to me about travel-distance to games: people travel stupid distances to go to bowl games year in and year out, even when those games are meaningless.
It's also kinds sucktastic that, before every team has had even one chance to play in a Winter Classic, that you've got some teams that have now played two or even three times. Switch to a format where you're hosting at a fixed-selection/rotation of college football fields - rather than cities that have both a hockey team and another large, outdoor venue - and you can allocate team appearances less clumpily (not going even going to argue "fairness").
Using "neutral" fields means you also get rid of the season ticket holders' potential complaints about losing a home game from their plan. Have the NHL scheduling-gods treat the game as an away game for both teams.
Further, as a mutual away-game, you can either have the NHL sell all the tickets and split the proceeds to all the teams, or you could have something like give each of the playing teams 50% of the tickets to sell. This could give you a college game like atmosphere where fans of each team tend to be clumped together. If there's a concern that the smaller market teams might undersell tickets, make the 50/50 allocation-split time-limited. Give each team a few weeks to a month to sell out their allotment, then take back any remainders. Take-backs then get sold by the NHL, the proceeds of which get profit-shared.
Yes. I know that many of the college stadiums are in the middle of freaking nowhere, relatively speaking. But that doesn't stop them from being able to oversell seating, week in and week out, year-after year, at stadiums that have tens of thousands more seats than the largest stadiums. Plus, all of those stadiums offer ample opportunities for tailgating (I looked at NBC's blimp view of today's game and it looked like Nationals' stadium has almost no parking???) Tailgating is an awesome part of going to sporting events ...and is yet another avenue that the NHL could cash in on.
Dunno. Something needs to change.