I am a traditionalist at heart. So this particular traditionalist loves what the NHL has done for the past three New Years Days. The National Hockey League has gone back to its roots by having an outdoor game. Two years ago the Buffalo Sabers hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.. The game became even more interesting when it began to snow. Last year the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the 2007-2008 Stanley Cup Champs, the Detroit Redwings at Wrigley Field.
The original outdoor game was held around Thanksgiving time in 2003. It was between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadians in temperatures hovering around the 0 F mark.
This past Winter Classic was held at Fenway Park in Boston. The Boston Bruins hosted the Philadelphia Flyers. Although it didn’t snow, just watching them play the fastest sport in the world outside was exciting. There were the ghosts of hockey’s past. Former Bruin superstar Bobby Orr and Flyer’s Captain Bobby Clark participated in the ceremonial face off. Adding to the aura of playing outdoors was the fact it was a good game. Like Reggie Dunlop would allude to in Slapshot, they played “old time hockey.” It was a defensive match that saw Boston winning in overtime 2-1.
The Winter Classic has become as part of New Years Day as the many college bowl games. According to Sports Illustrated (2009), the NHL had 300,000 requests for this past game in Boston. There is talk that next year’s game will be held at Yankee Stadium with the Rangers hosting the Capitals. There is also talk of expanding to two “outdoor” games each year. Whoever though of the idea should be well compensated. This is truly a fun game to watch. Whether you are a hockey enthusiast like I, or just a casual observer, it is definitely must see TV on NBC.