Ah, the Winter Classic. The outdoors, middle of winter, the fresh air…hopefully some idyllic snowflakes (that goalies will invariably use to buttress their creases). In an attempt to evoke childhood memories and the roots of the game, the NHL has found some secret sauce with the now annual New Year’s Day outdoor game. On a day that is still ruled by College Football, the “lowly” NHL has managed to get itself on the radar with their ode to all things folksy about the game.
Personally, I’ve never been overly impressed with these games. The settings have been neat. The games for the most part, have not. Try as the NHL may with its well-produced marketing efforts, I’ve never been fully captivated with these games aside from the fact that it’s hockey on a day where I’m usually trying to cure a pounding headache.
Now I know that the NHL is a business and with their latest sacred cow wants to milk these things for all they are worth…but could something be as predictable, scripted and contrived as a Penguins vs Capitals matchup? I know you want to showcase your best when you have the spotlight, but come on. Sure, “Sid the Kid” and “Alex the Gr8″ qualify as the best that the NHL can offer, but when things as predictable as this come to pass, I just want someone to pass me the bucket. Can you imagine how much hype will surround this event? Unless you’re a Penguins fan, Capitals fan, employee of the network carrying the event, an NHL employee, or a hockey-loving vacuum (even this may be a stretch for those of you who love all things hockey), you may want to invest in a bilge pump to keep from drowning in the thick gravy we’re all about to be hosed with. Note to the NHL (and especially to NBC): there ARE other stars and other teams in your league.
Frankly, I’m surprised at my own reaction. I figured I’d enjoy something like this. Maybe I will, but right now my impression is that this feels manufactured and vacuous. A Crosby / Ovechkin matchup would sell at any point, in any year but I believe that the NHL dropped the ball by announcing this so quickly. I have a suggestion, albeit a moot one. Hear me out, but I think with the hockey we are about to be treated to, the NHL would have been wise to wait and see how the Cup Finals played out and thought of concocting a Toews / Richards rematch for their next Winter Classic. The 2 best players in the league *today* may not be Crosby and Ovechkin, but Richards and Toews. You can certainly make that argument.
With the plotlines that engulf this upcoming series (Hawks in 6, by the way), there could have been an air of authenticity and genuine nastiness to this affair. With Sidney and Alex, I get the sense that the only plotlines would be “can Crosby can channel his shinny hockey childhood once again to topple his nemesis?” or “can Ovechkin can gain a measure of redemption against the kid who has a Stanley Cup, Gold Medal and Maurice Richard trophy to his recent collection?” It just feels tired, uninspired and lazy to me. A weak attempt to add 8 minutes to the feature-length DVD that we’re sure to see one day about the Crosby/Ovechkin rivalry. Apparently the legends are true. NBC, at least when it comes to hockey, really does stand for “Nobody But Crosby”. I do like Crosby. A lot in fact. But there has never been a moment in NHL history where so many GREAT young stars are filling out rosters everywhere.
I admit, it could be a great game, and I always hope that it is. But we’ve also seen that outdoor conditions can severely affect a player or team that relies on skill to succeed. Anything other than an offensive show would probably leave most fans feeling cheated. By January 2nd, I could end up eating my words, and I hope I do. It might be a great game in a great setting. But for now, with the calendar about to roll over to June, this leaves me completely indifferent. But like most of you, I will gladly watch, simply because we all love the game and we don’t want to miss a thing.
I haven’t even touched on the Canadiens – Flames matchup that will take place in February in Calgary at McMahon Stadium.
My reaction to this game is “Why?”
I’ve never been to Calgary, but I hear it’s pretty cold and unpleasant in February. I don’t know why this game needs to happen. Wouldn’t the Oilers or Leafs or Canucks or Senators (ok, not the Senators) be as good a matchup? Again, I’m not opposed to this, but I just don’t get it. Please sell me on this, unless you share my opinion. If the Canadiens are to play an outdoor game, it should be at Percival Molson Stadium, where the CFL’s Alouettes play. Now THAT would be a setting I could get excited about. Aside from the setting, what’s the draw to this game? The return of Cammalleri to Calgary? Where he spent one season? If it was a marketing angle in the least, it’s already been done…
How do you feel about these games? Is the NHL going to the well too often? Is the whole thing too formulaic? Please leave your thoughts below, and thanks for reading!