Since the 2008-09 season, the NHL has been participating in a highly anticipated event: the Winter Classic. This event involves a hockey game taking place outdoors, which is the way the game was originally played. As such, it appears to be the perfect showcase for the sports.
A Classic Event
Each year, much anticipation is built up as fans ponder who will be selected to play in the annual event, with various television networks even broadcasting shows that follow the participating teams around in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Day. This only serves to add to the excitement, as the fans get to know the players, coaches and their families, giving the spectators even more of a rooting interest than they may have already had.
The Winter Classic is a fantastic event, which gives hockey the type of exposure it doesn’t often get in American markets.
Building on the success of the Winter Classic, numerous other outdoor hockey games have taken place, with such enticing names as the Heritage Classic and the Stadium Series. These events are portrayed in much the same way as the Winter Classic: a way to give spectators a unique viewing experience while also drawing in new fans.
However, is it possible that this increase in the number of outdoor games has taken away from the novelty of the Winter Classic? Allow me to elaborate.
Too Much Outdoor Hockey
Although the Winter Classic is by no means the first time NHL games have taken place outdoors, it is still the first thing that comes to mind when discussing outdoor hockey contests. Now, thanks to the other outdoor games taking place, this may not longer be the case.
Although watching outdoor games is quite an enjoyable experience and one that I look forward to every year, the fun of the events has worn off for me somewhat, thanks in no small part to the Stadium Series and its numerous outdoor hockey games.
While I am not really in any position to complain, considering my favorite team, the New York Rangers, has taken part in three outdoor games, for me, there is still nothing that will beat the thrill of watching the Rangers face the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic. Sure, it was fun to watch the Rangers defeat the Islanders and Devils at Yankee Stadium, but the game didn’t feel nearly as significant as the Winter Classic one did.
What the NHL should do
What I am trying to say is that while I do appreciate the extra exposure that hockey gets by having numerous outdoor games, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the NHL scaled back on the number of games of this variety that it hosts.
Bring things back to the way they were, when the only outdoor games were Winter Classic ones. Give the fans something to look forward to without overstuffing them. This, in my opinion, would make professional outdoor hockey a novelty to watch again, which is something that it has been lacking of late.