Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 Winter Classic
Open thread

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."
I'm with Ruff on this one.

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.

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At 12:22 p.m., January 01, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I have no use for hockey in a football stadium. My father and I go to the NCAA hockey final four every year, but we are going to take a pass the year it's at Ford Field. I'd like to have seats close enough so that I can see the game. This is a development I can do without.

At 1:43 p.m., January 01, 2008, Blogger odessasteps said...

when was the last time they sang the Canadian anthem involving a game with two American teams?

At 1:49 p.m., January 01, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

The Sabres play both anthems at every game. Roughly 25 per cent of their ticket buyers are Canadian.

At 2:35 p.m., January 01, 2008, Blogger Andrew Bucholtz said...

I think it's been a pretty good game so far. The quality of play doesn't seem to have suffered too much from the conditions (see Crosby's juggling act), and it hasn't been too cold. I'm a big fan of these sorts of events: it makes it a lot more interesting than a regular game between two teams I don't follow closely.

At 5:42 p.m., January 01, 2008, Anonymous Ace said...

Sid the Kid with a shootout winner and it's pretty hard to argue that the game was a failure/disappointment. Was the game/broadcast perfect? Of course not. (Milbury was awful, Bettman was glaringly absent, the constant stoppages didn't help) But for once it was about selling NHL hockey as "fun," the league not taking itself too seriously, and the theater of snow and 70,000 fans certainly added to the fun factor. The casual fan is going to walk away talking about Crosby's juggling of the puck or the SO winner, not nitpicking over the fact that it was yet another low scoring game (I think they credited Pitt with 2 shots in the 2nd) or that the game lacked the usual NHL pace of speed and skating. And for those who may complain about the snow effecting the level of play, it was hardly as ugly or messy as some weather-effected NFL games (i.e Giants and Dolphins in London this season)

I'm curious to see though if the ratings even made a dent in the US with all the college football bowl games.

At 8:25 p.m., January 01, 2008, Blogger False Rumour Monger said...

"I'm curious to see though if the ratings even made a dent in the US with all the college football bowl games."

I'm Canadian and had no interest whatsoever with the five early bowl games today. I tuned into CBC for about 30 seconds to see what the weather was like.

The NHL did such a poor job marketing this game because I only remembered it was happening today thanks to the ESPN ticker.

And with only five posts before this one it just shows how lame this game was.

At 10:09 p.m., January 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they're gonna play at an outdoor site, why not make the sheet be huge, along the lines of a football field, almost like bandy, but with a puck?

Just dress 22 and you could have 2 lines, maybe even make it a knockout tourney during the week of the all star game in Northern cities

At 10:59 p.m., January 01, 2008, Anonymous baroque said...

I thought it looked like a lot of fun to play, certainly to watch. The crowd looked amazing and the atmosphere was something else.

Here's one non-college-football fan who appreciated the opportunity to watch something other than football.

I'd love to see another outdoor game, but not for several years. Give the hard-working ice makers some time off after their efforts and make sure the game retains a special feeling instead of being just another outdoor event.

At 11:35 p.m., January 01, 2008, Blogger Michael said...

I loved the spectacle of it all. The pyrotechnics were a nice touch as the NHL should look into WWE-like pregame production.

The game was low scoring because you had 2 goalies who were on the top of their game.

I don't think this game should count anymore, rather just have this a exhibition. Would anyone like to see the All-Star game played outdoors like this in Minnesota?

Crosby is continually writing his professional career's legacy with clutch performances like that one.

At 11:52 p.m., January 01, 2008, Anonymous Ace said...

I'm in the U.S. (New York) and I didn't have much interest in the early bowl games either, although Michigan was really the only hockey-centric state which had a vested interest in one of the football games. (I can't imagine too many hockey fans choosing between the Winter Classic and the Texas Tech-Virginia game though)

As for marketing, unless you regularly watch NBC or Versus, or your local NHL team, or live in Pittsburgh or Buffalo, chances are you probably didn't hear much about it. ESPN certainly wasn't building it up. Although I did notice it on the bottom line today.

I'm still generally positive about the event. If anything it got hockey fans to watch two teams they generally don't care about. At least in the US, NBC and Versus ratings have been awful. Unlike the NFL, NHL fans here generally follow their team, and thats it. But I agree, the marketing just wasn't there to sell it to those who don't already follow hockey at least semi-regularly.

Anyway, a few other criticisms -

Anyone else cringe when Milbury was bragging about beating Rangers fans with a shoe after climbing into the stands at the Garden? And I say that not just as a Rangers fan (my dad was a season ticket holder at MSG then too), but is that really how the NHL wants to sell the game to casual fans?

The half-assed SlapShot segment was terrible. Besides Costas looking disinterested in telling his own Ogelthorpe story and finishing it off with the "I forgot the sweatshirt in the hotel" line or even the merit of focusing on an image of the game the NHL has been trying to move away from the past 25 year - but if they're talking about SlapShot they can't even get the Hanson Brothers out there for the game? Or even mention its the 30th anniversary of the movie?

They definitely could have planned extra content for all of the extra stoppages - the weather conditions weren't exactly a huge surprise. I didn't need to watch the ice patching guys for 5 minutes at a time.

The Pens are in the spotlight and Mario's nowhere to be seen?

Also they couldn't get any past NHL greats (especially old Pens & Sabres) for the broadcast? I would have much rather seen an interview with Pat LaFontaine than more of Costas and Milbury awkwardly attempting to build rapport together.

And lastly, player introductions/profiles...they spent so much time talking about Crosby, which is understandable, but they could have at least talked a little more about guys like Tomas Vanek and Evgeni Malkin.

At 12:39 a.m., January 02, 2008, Blogger Old said...

The Pens are in the spotlight and Mario's nowhere to be seen?

Also they couldn't get any past NHL greats (especially old Pens & Sabres) for the broadcast? I would have much rather seen an interview with Pat LaFontaine than more of Costas and Milbury awkwardly attempting to build rapport together.

Couldn't agree more Ace. I had the game on tape delay, and got to fast forward through all the stopages, but I would have paused if I saw Mario, or LaFontaine. Mario, though, is a bit of an odd duck in his relations with the media. They always show him up in the box during games, but either the press doesn't ask to talk to him, or he declines. He only really talks in Pittsburgh when it is about getting the new arena. Maybe if the NHL had asked him to sell the game he would have said a few words.

Maybe Mario didn't want to bump into Edso!

At 10:35 a.m., January 02, 2008, Blogger PB said...

Milbury's presence and the video with him hitting the fan with his shoe (and Milbury's machismo regarding it all) was just surreal...

They could have done a better job with the intermission stuff.

If 71,127 people froze their butts off on New Year's Day during bowl season is any indication of the success of this event, I'd say do it annually or semi-annually.

Rotate the venues - play the next one in Canada - use original six teams - but make it some sort of tradition because the current version of the NHL needs (and needed) something like this event to showcase these players and this sport.


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