The Great Outdoors: On Ice-Covered Buffalo Wings and Frostbitten Big Lips

Morning Cup-A-JoeMy New Year’s wish: that 64,000 of the expected 74,000 fans packing Buffalo’s football stadium tomorrow afternoon for the Winter Classic are Maple Leaf fans donning blue and white Leafs’ sweaters.
Give the NHL credit when credit is due: the marketing for tomorrow’s game has been — most particularly by NHL standards — superb. Last Friday’s USA Today had lavish coverage of the game and of outdoor hockey in general. The league has fed superb images of the construction of the rink to scores of electronic media, making the Winter Classic a staple of Web sports navigating for at least the past week. And the league is wisely using its broadcast outlet, the NHL Network, as a lead coverage catalyst. Take a look at the broadcast schedule there today, for instance:
1:30 – 4:00 p.m.: Winter Classic Preview
4:00 – 6:00 p.m.: Heritage Classic (Montreal vs. Edmonton)
6:30 p.m.: Sidney Crosby Revealed (skip that) (as if he hasn’t been revealed already enough)
7:00 – 9:30 p.m.: Replay of the Winter Classic Preview
Buffalo of course is nobody’s idea of a holiday destination, but it is in New York, and that has a lot to do with the league getting the coverage it is for this gig. Clearly, it learned a lesson from the Heritage Classic. That was a magnificent event, including as it did the Old Timer’s Game featuring Wayne and his old Oiler teammates and some greats from the Habs’ past. The feature game itself was competitive and well played. But the whole event took place in frozen-over Alberta. It was broadcast on Hockey Night in Canada, but there was zero U.S. television coverage.
There is no longer much in the way of compelling college pigskin on New Years Day anymore, larded as it is with three- and four-loss, third- and fifth-place-in-their-conference teams about the networks. A national champion is never crowned on New Years Day anymore. That’s a travesty.
Scores of NHLers in recent days have expressed support for the league’s staging an outdoor game every year. They speak of games like this with uniform enthusiasm. New Years is the perfect occasion for it.
The NHL has something fantastically distinctive with outdoor hockey. There’s nothing the other sports can do to match it for intrigue. Better: it’s anything but forced, schlocky fabrication — it’s a return to hockey’s roots. And fans, in Canada and the U.S., are responding, in droves. Sabres’ officials last week claimed that they could have sold 150,000 tickets for tomorrow’s game. I don’t dount it.
One hundred thousand of them likely would have come from Toronto.

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This entry was posted in Buffalo Sabres, Gary Bettman, Hockey Night in Canada, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Great Outdoors: On Ice-Covered Buffalo Wings and Frostbitten Big Lips

  1. Maybe they’re finally going to reveal that Crosby is, in fact, a robot. I’d watch that!

  2. chanuck says:

    I still would not be upset if a meteor hit the joint. Why can’t it end in a tie?

  3. Shawn says:

    It has been great to watch! But they are having a hellava time keeping that ice clean.

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