Winter Classic: The Review

It went well. Here’s why:

  • If I were a more cynical dude, I’d say the NHL scripted that game in advance and then played it out like pro wrestling. Taking the game to a shootout that rests on the final breakaway, by the game’s biggest star, who slides it in to win? Fixing a hockey game though seems particularly difficult: Chris Pronger leads the NHL in ice time per game right now, and he’s still out there for less than half of the game. You could try buying off the goalie, but what’s the likelihood you can pay both goalies to maintain a 1-1 tie and have them deliver?

    Then there’s the fact that people tend to bet on sports that are popular, so I think it’s a very high likelihood that we’ll see the end of ice occurring in nature before we run into a massive goal-shaving scandal.

  • My favorite thing about this outdoor game idea is that it unintentionally does what the NHL should have done all along in the disastrous 1990s: it focuses on the existing fan base. Bill Clement wrote a piece for MSNBC before the game where he pointed out that random TV watchers are likely to see a few seconds of outdoor hockey, stop and watch with interest, then potentially become hockey fans. You’re still talking about a crazy disconnect in most of the country: nobody living in Phoenix even experiences winter, much less nostalgia for frozen-pond hockey. But the people who already follow hockey, who have been saying for years that the game isn’t what it used to be, eat that purist-hockey stuff up: tickets to today’s game sold out 30 minutes after being offered. So while the NHL probably had the same fans in mind who’ve been ignoring hockey for 10 years even as pro teams opened up shop in their home cities, the whole idea is hella cool to pre-existing fan dudes like me.
  • Penguins throwback jerseys: it worked, though I wish they had been the all-yellow jerseys from the ’70s. I can’t seem to find a pic, even when I googled “Rick Kehoe”. What good are you, Internet?
  • I haven’t seen a dude get hit like Brooks Orpik did in a long while. I thought I was watching NFL Films by mistake.
  • Out.

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