The Winter Classic, one outside game played on January 1st every year to spark a holiday event in hockey mid-season. A tradition that started in 2008 when the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Buffalo Sabers on the Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The event was such a hit with a crowd breaking record, that it sparked a fire. There has been a Winter Classic every year since, except for 2013. Most notably for this blog being the 2010 matchup between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers in Fenway Park.
My point being, the Winter Classic is supposed to be just that, a classic. An event held once a year to have lasting significance or worth. Its going to be really hard to be an enduring value when the NHL is prepared to host not just one, not just two, but a whole handful of extra outdoor games on top of the already announced Winter Classic scheduled between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings to take place in Michigan Stadium, in Ann Arbor Michigan.
This Winter Classic was supposed to be held this year, January 1st, 2013. However the obnoxious NHL lockout prevented this growing tradition. Instead it will be head in 2014, same time, same place.
This post is more focused on the other games. They take place towards the end of January and the start of March. These games are striking up a controversy within the NHL fan base. Many fans argue that these additional games are going too far. They are going to take away from the excitement and feel of the what-should-have-been solo Winter Classic. Why should fans rally around the January 1st game when they can pick one of six to put their money behind instead?
On the plus side, this gives other teams a greater probability of taking part in one of these outdoor spectacles. Giving them an opportunity to grow their fan bases, and create a buzz to attract more profit. However the Rangers, Penguins, and Blackhawks will be making multiple outdoor appearances, while other teams are still left on their own.
These extra outdoor games host a number of big name rivalries. These games will draw in a large crowd, but the smaller rivalries will fall to the way-side.
I think the NHL jumped the gun with all of these outdoor games. The Winter Classic was budding in reputation, fans were still excited for it every year, they just started the HBO series. Now though, things are going to be different. They are going to bleed this marketing opportunity dry. Tsk. Fans will still show support for their teams of course, but no more interest in the once a season Winter Classic.
.Anyway, that’s my take. Big mistake.
Here are the scheduled outdoor games for next season:
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings 1/1 @ Michigan Stadium
Anaheim Ducks vs. LA Kings 1/25 @ Dodger Stadium
New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers 1/26 @ Yankee Stadium
New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers 1/29 @ Yankee Stadium
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks 3/01 @ Soldier Field
Ottawa Senators vs. Vancouver Canucks 3/02 @ BC Place