The 2011 Winter Classic will be remembered for rain, awful intermission entertainment, and the beginning of the end for Sidney Crosby’s season. Oh what fond memories of Pittsburgh.

It’s seven months until next year’s game will be played, and we already known that it’ll likely be a home game for the man who made history two years ago during the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park. Yes, Dan Carcillo is actually in the record books for something after he fought Shawn Thornton for the first scrap in Winter Classic history.

In early May widespread reports began to circulate that the 2012 version of the largest marketing event on the NHL’s calendar would be held in Philadelphia, and will feature the Flyers facing off against their Atlantic division rivals, the New York Rangers. While there’s still no official word from the league, further rumblings are putting those reports close to being finalized.

Thanks for that piece of news confirming already obvious news, Larry. This comes on the same day that the Coyotes are reportedly set to announce a preseason game against the Stars outdoors at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Now I guess us hosers can return to the business of complaining about the Flyers being included in the Winter Classic–or an outdoor NHL game of any kind–while three teams in hockey’s homeland still haven’t breathed that sweet outdoor pond air. Or at least someone can, but we won’t as long as the Winter Classic is brought up north in 2013, a move we still have faith in. Gary Bettman is a lot of things, but a conspiracy coordinator he is not. While the mental image of him sitting in a press box and orchestrating anti-Vancouver calls with his Fisher Price walkie-talkie is entertaining, it’s also foolish.

It may feel like it’s a little soon for the Flyers to make their Winter Classic return after losing to the Bruins in overtime just two years ago, but in some crazy scheme to make money and reel in the casual fan Bettman et al are merely tapping into the league’s largest and most lucrative media markets. This is why Chicago hosted a game at Wrigley Field, and it’s why passionate hockey fan bases with superstars like the Capitals and Penguins have been involved. Pittsburgh has also played in two Winter Classics, with the league tapping the Crosby reservoir dry.

The lack of Canadian content and the doubling up on the Flyers will sting a little more in the absence of a Heritage Classic. The Canadian version of Bettman’s American cash cow won’t be held in 2011, with both stadium scheduling and the novelty of the professional pond game wearing off cited as the primary concerns.

If the definition of a suitable destination for the Winter Classic truly is a lucrative, large media market capable of reaching a mass audience, then Toronto should be the next target. Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment executives have been courting the Winter Classic since 2009, but a proper venue is still the main hurdle. BMO Field is a fine facility, but it’s capacity of 23,000 is minuscule compared to the other Winter Classic venues, the largest of which was Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008 (max capacity of 80,020), and the smallest was the Fenway Park (37,402).

Calgary and Edmonton remain reliable options from a venue standpoint with their CFL stadiums. It can be argued that both cities are less attractive as media markets and wouldn’t create the same buzz as Toronto or New York, but the Oilers and Flames have each hosted successful Heritage Classics. Whether or not that carries enough weight remains to be seen, and we can only hope.

As Brooks also reports, HBO will film another version of its 24/7 series, no doubt catching several verbal sparring sessions between Brooks and Rangers head John Tortorella. The specific venue in Philadelphia hasn’t been confirmed yet, although it’s been widely speculated that the league will transition back to a baseball stadium and play at Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Phillies.