Other sports should copy NHL’s Outdoor Game

January 01, 2010 | Drew Forrester

The best one-day sports event in our country takes place on January 1st every year.

And then we wait 364 days for it to happen again.

Today’s outdoor NHL game at Fenway Park was once again another wonderful example of how you don’t need state-of-the-art facilities to make a one-day event standout as both a symbolic trip down memory lane and a reminder to all the participants of where they came from before hitting the big time.

Boston won today’s game, 2-1, in overtime over Philadelphia, but that hardly mattered.

What mattered most is that the NHL once again captured the essence of sports…competing in an amateur environment and battling for the sake of being better on that day.  Yes, the players got paid today, but when the game was over, they would have all forfeited one day’s salary, I’m sure.

And if the NFL, MLB and NBA had a brain, they’d each put together one of these “throwback” games and make it part of their respective regular season schedules.

It could EASILY be done in every sport.

In the NFL, simply find a high school stadium in Texas or Ohio that seats 10,000 people and put the players there for one memorable evening of football.

In MLB, go to any number of parks in South Florida that have long hosted some of the nation’s best high school and amateur players.  Put some temporary bleachers up, pack 5,000 people in there on a sunny Sunday afternoon and have at it.

In the NBA, set up a court in the parking lot of The Staples Center in Los Angeles, get the temporary bleachers in place, and have yourself a good old fashioned school yard game.

Obviously, as they’ve done so expertly with the NHL’s outdoor game, the NFL, MLB and NBA must guarantee that everything is in place to insure the health and safety of the players.  The idea is to precisely duplicate the feel of a “real game” in an arena or setting that takes the players back to their youth. But you must make sure the players aren’t subjecting themselves to possible injury by moving the game from its natural location.

Having the players dress in a high school locker room?  No big deal.  Might even be good for some of those spoiled NFL’ers to remember what it was like to not have hot water after the game.

Not having a climate-controlled locker room with DVD players?  Who cares?  The NBA locker rooms are better than my house.  They can do without watching their DVD player for one game.

And there might not be any room for the post-game buffet spread for the Major Baseball Players.  I guess they’ll just have to spend some of that $108 daily per-diem back at The Crowne Plaza afterwards.

There’s no question an NFL game at an elite high school stadium would be FAR more interesting in this country than that lame-game they play every year in London.  Talk about a dud.  Move that game to the U.S. and put it in a high school facility.

As I watched today’s hockey game, I was reminded of some of the best years of my life, growing up in Glen Burnie and playing hockey on frozen Lake Waterford in Pasadena.  We’d get dropped off at 9:00 am, find some big pieces of woods or logs to make a goal on the ice, and we’d play until it got dark and someone came to pick us up.  And if were lucky enough to play past dark, someone would build a fire in a trash can and we’d have enough light to play until the puck got slapped away and we couldn’t find it.

Those were the days.

The only thing missing today at Fenway Park was the fire in the trash can.

For years, the NHL has lagged behind the other sports in terms of notoriety, TV revenue and overall marketing exposure.

This one game won’t leap-frog the NHL over the NBA or Major League Baseball.

But for one day, it does show that the NHL is more capable than the other sports of offering their players a reminder of their roots and the foundation of their respective careers.

The players in Philadelphia and Boston are better for it today, for sure.

And the NFL, MLB and NBA should figure out a way to duplicate the NHL’s outdoor event.

Everyone would win.  Players, coaches, fans, sponsors and TV networks…they’d all go home happy.

Just like they did today in Boston.

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