Anti-Winter Classic

When I heard the news that the Penguins and Capitals had been awarded the next Winter Classic, all I could do was roll my eyes.  Of course the Penguins would be hosting a Classic just three years after playing in the inaugural one in Buffalo.  This is stating the obvious, but there’s a widespread perception around the league (well, outside of Pittsburgh anyway) that the NHL favors the Penguins, especially “Savior of the League” Sidney Crosby.  Seeing that the Penguins get to repeat their performance in the Classic so soon dovetailed very nicely with that notion.

I had the Classic pegged as a once in a generation event for a team, something that only came around every 10-15 years or so.  Last time I checked, there were thirty teams in the league, and I figured that most, if not all, of them would get a shot at being part of a Classic before teams got to play in their second one.  But, this is the NHL, so I should’ve known not to waste my time trying to make sense.  One of the things that aggravates me to no end about the NHL is the insistence on marketing only Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.  Despite the presence of bright, young stars throughout the league (Think Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, Rick Nash, Henrik Zetterberg, Drew Doughty, and countless others.), the NHL’s marketing insists on focusing on just Crosby and Ovechkin.

Now, it makes sense to have the Caps play in a Classic.  I was not at all surprised to see that they were going to be playing in this one.  Washington’s a big market and Ovechkin, despite his oversaturation, is a marketable star and a huge draw for the league.  My problem lies with throwing Pittsburgh back in.  If the city was a huge media market, I might understand, but no reasonable person can make that argument.  If it was about a huge local market, one of the New York teams would be playing.  If it was really about showcasing the game’s young stars, one of the other many teams who are being led by bright new talent would’ve been chosen to face off against the Caps.  Instead, we’re going to get round 800 of the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry shoved down our throats on New Year’s Day.  I already know that I’m going to be disgusted by the media saturation hyping up two already over-hyped players.

That being said, I’m not completely against this edition of the Classic.  I’m excited to see the game return to a football stadium because I think the layout is much more conducive to viewing a hockey game.  Football stadiums are set up more like hockey arenas, and it seems like that leads to better sightlines.  I was never a huge fan of having them in baseball stadiums (despite the fact that I love baseball and hate football) because the configuration of the ice surface seemed awkward.

While I don’t necessarily like the idea of teams repeating their performance in the Classic so quickly, I find it intriguing for purely selfish reasons.  I’m a Wings fan first and foremost, and when they played in the Classic in Chicago last season, I figured I wouldn’t get to see them in that event for several years.  When the idea of the Classic was first announced, I immediately thought of hosting one in the Big House at the University of Michigan, the biggest football stadium in the country.  I’ll be attending the Big Freeze there in December when UofM and MSU face off in their second outdoor game, and I have a feeling that the NHL will be keeping an eye on how the event there goes.  Now that I know that the league is willing to let teams participate in the Winter Classic with only a couple of years between appearances, it opens up the possibility of the Wings getting to play in another outdoor game, ideally at the Big House.  The Wings are still one of the league’s biggest draws, and bringing in any Original Six team would create an instantly marketable rivalry.  To top it all off, there’s the potential to set a world record for attendance at a hockey game if the Big House gets sold out.  When its renovations are complete this fall, the stadium will seat over 108,000 people.  Imagine 108,000 screaming hockey fans packed into a stadium smashing a world record for attendance by 30,000 people.  There’s no way the NHL isn’t intrigued at that idea.  Is this logic selfish?  Sure it is, but I do what I can to get myself through a day as a beleaguered NHL fan.

  1. Kuni
    June 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Although I am not a Penguin or a Capital fan, I do enjoy watching them face off against each other. That being said, I was not exactly thrilled when I heard who would be playing in the Winter Classic this year.

  2. June 9, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I was disappointed to hear about the next Winter Classic. I’m not one the conspiracy theory fans who think that the league is in bed with Sidney Crosby, but like you said, I wanted to some variety! While I’m pretty sure we wont’ be seeing a Florida vs Tampa Bay game any time soon, I don’t think it’s too much to hope for to get a good Devils/Rangers match up! It’s all about ratings I guess.

  3. Linda Hamilton
    June 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Thank you Kris for well written piece. I share a lot of your sentiments.

  4. dan
    June 12, 2010 at 1:15 am

    wings n avs in michigan plz

    • June 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

      COULDN’T agree more! Leading up to it they should show clips of some of the fights and of some of their best games against each other. Best pre-cap rivalry for sure!

    • Kris
      June 13, 2010 at 3:44 pm

      I would be 1,000% in favor of a Wings-Avs Winter Classic in the Big House. Nothing will ever compare to growing up with that rivalry. I know it’s faded away, but I’m sure I could stir up some latent hatred for a WC match-up.

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