2008 Winter Classic
Unfortunately, the action is unlikely to be great. If the quality of hockey is no better than it was in the Heritage Game, the league won't be creating new fans. Once the novelty of the outdoor game wore off for the viewer, it was just a lousy hockey game.
"The idea is absolutely fabulous. We are creatures of habit and to get out of the routine for a game like this, I'm telling you ... it was just so cool to be out there. I think this is an unbelievable (event) and I'm not even going to be playing. For the players, I think it's a thrill of a lifetime to be in a game like this, centre stage in a great facility."
The last outdoor game was more than four years ago, it's remembered as being a 'classic' in spite of the horrid weather conditions, and barring a cancellation this afternoon, I imagine this one goes in the books as a success.
Lousy hockey? Does the NFL have lousy games when there's six inches of snow on the ground and the ratings go through the roof? And does one game of 1,230 in a season really compromise the integrity of the sport?
If someone as gruff as Ruff can be out there, having the time of his life, then the least the rest of us can do is recognize the 'fun' value in a game like this, tune in for the gimmick factor and hear from the fans in attendance who had a great time. (Those at the event are encouraged to send me pictures, by the way.)
Hockey needs more interest-generating, big-ticket events during its regular season, and if that means having an outdoor game every few years, that's fine by me. Besides, sports fans have loved to watch athletes in other sports battle the elements for decades.
I'm going to be at the Leafs-Lightning game tonight (for which there will likely be another open thread) and may not have time to catch all of this one, but please feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments.
UPDATE Eric McErlain is live blogging this game at the FanHouse.
UPDATE Here's my early story from the Leafs-Lightning morning skate, including a few colourful quotes from coach John Tortorella. It's going to be Scott Clemmensen versus Karri Ramo in goal tonight in Toronto.
UPDATE The Globe's David Shoalts is blogging from the Winter Classic.