The Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in Major League Baseball and a buzz has begun building about the Philadelphia Eagles and their Super...

The Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in Major League Baseball and a buzz has begun building about the Philadelphia Eagles and their Super Bowl hopes now that there is legitimate optimism National Football League players and owners will agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in time to play the entire 2011 season. But the hottest ticket in Philadelphia lately is for a hockey game that won’t be played for another six months.

Multiple news outlets reported last week that the Flyers would host the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic — the NHL’s annual outdoor game — on January 2, 2012. The game will take place at the Phillies’ home park, Citizens Bank Park. And though the NHL hasn’t confirmed it yet, and though tickets likely won’t go on sale for months — tickets to the 2011 game went on sale in September 2010 — demand for the game has already begun in Philadelphia.

“Oh yeah, we’ve been getting a number of calls everyday,” Andy Peachey of Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Ticket Office told TicketNews. “We’ve got a long list of people we’ll need to call once we get everything fixed up with it.”

That the Flyers will be hosting a regional rival has further excited Philadelphia fans and will make the game a hot ticket in two cities. While the previous five Winter Classics have all pitted rivals and teams located within reasonable driving distance of each other — including the Flyers’ visit to Fenway Park for a game against the Boston Bruins on New Year’s Day 2010 — this will be the first time the two teams in the Winter Classic are located less than 100 miles from each other.

“That definitely helps — it’s not that far a distance for Rangers fans to travel so it’s going to be something big for both Flyers fans and Rangers fans to just come and enjoy not just the rivalry but the whole atmosphere for what’s going on,” Peachey said.

The opportunity to watch ice hockey in its natural element has turned the Winter Classic, which began in 2008, into by far the most popular game on the NHL’s regular season schedule. It has also turned into the biggest marketing opportunity of the season for the NHL: Teams are typically outfitted in “throwback” uniforms and HBO aired a reality show last fall chronicling the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals as they prepared for the 2011 Winter Classic.

Not surprisingly, the uniqueness of the Winter Classic and the accompanying hype has turned it into a hard-to-get ticket. The first four Winter Classics were played in front of sellout crowds, and in the days before the 2011 edition in Pittsburgh, the cheapest ticket at StubHub.com was a $273 seat that was $23 more expensive than the face value of the most expensive ticket offered when tickets first went on sale.

With anticipation already high and summer barely underway, Peachey expects more of the same for Philadelphia. “This is something that doesn’t come around too often, and the fact that we’re finally getting it, who knows when or if it would come back around again?” Peachey said. “I foresee this as being equivalent to an NFC Championship Game [for the Eagles] or something like a Phillies NL Championship Series game, something of that magnitude.”