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No, Let’s Not Disband The One Thing The NHL’s Doing Right

January 5, 2011

SI.com recently published a Dan Shaughnessy column with the following lede: “Sorry, but the expiration date on the Winter Classic has come and gone. Time to retire the outdoor hockey game.”

I think this deserves a meek attempt at Fire Joe Morgan-style commentary.

The Caps beat the Penguins, 3-1, but this was not what the league had in mind.
Crosby and Ovechkin were on the same ice, so this was exactly what the league had in mind.

It was playable, but barely. Watching on television, you could see puddling and water splashing in the trail of the puck sliding across the ice. One side of the surface was worse than the other, so the teams changed ends halfway through the third period.
They did this in Buffalo in 2008, too. And “it was great.”

Shaughnessy continues, telling us why Pittsburgh didn’t deserve the Winter Classic.

Let’s start with the host city. OK, professional hockey was born in Pittsburgh 100 years ago, but it’s simply not a metropolis we associate with hockey.
I in no way associate with hockey the city where Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby have played and won three Stanley Cups. Miami’s a better hockey town.

Buffalo is not an original six town, but there’s no disputing its qualification as a winter sports mecca.
If Buffalo’s a winter sports mecca, I think Pittsburgh’s at least a winter sports Wailing Wall.

Chicago and Boston are part of NHL genesis. Nuff said.
Should we just eliminate the other 24 teams and have a six-team league again? And that NHL genesis has combined for one title in the last 35 years.

Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium worked because it’s in Buffalo and got the requisite snow flurries to made for spectacular television.
Buffalo is a better site than Pittsburgh because on January 1, 2008 it snowed in Buffalo, whereas on January 1, 2011 it did not snow in Pittsburgh.

Heinz Field, on the other hand, is a new facility singularly associated with football and the Steelers. It’s not old-timey like Fenway or Wrigley..
So what’s the minimum age requirement – 90 years, maybe?

It’s simply a football field. Nothing more.
Since only the Red Sox play at Fenway Park, is it simply a baseball field, nothing more?

If it’s cold enough, I would be OK with any outdoor game in
I think he’s advocating the NHL announce the Winter Classic location on Christmas, based on ten-day weather forecasts.

Detroit, Montreal or Toronto.
The stated purpose of the Winter Classic is growing the game in the United States, which is a country that Montreal and Toronto are not in.

Yankee Stadium might even work.
Might? Because Wrigley and Fenway are “palaces of worship,” but Yankee Stadium is what, simply a baseball field, nothing more?

If the event is going to work it’s got to be really good television and Pittsburgh didn’t have the Currier & Ives snowfall, mittened fans, or players spewing hot air into the cold night.
Crosby, Ovechkin, and the best rivalry in hockey? Doesn’t work. Mittened fans? Works.

If you freeze it, they will come. That’s been the theme in Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, and Pittsburgh. But it’s a tough sell in a modern football facility with raindrops falling in 50 degree temperatures.
Rating for Flyers-Bruins? 2.1. Rating for Capitals-Penguins? 2.3.

I tried watching the Winter Classic Saturday night and it didn’t work. The snow globe effect was gone.
If we all buy Dan Shaughnessy snow globes with Bruins insignia, maybe he’ll let us keep the Winter Classic.

“In the third period, weather became a problem,” Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin admitted after the victory.
Other quote from Alex Ovechkin: “It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Outdoors is good. Cold is good. Snow flurries make it even better. But rain just doesn’t work and television won’t wait. Time for the NHL to come back inside to play.
In summary, the NHL should postpone the Winter Classic indefinitely until it can control the weather.

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From → January 2011

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