Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Wrapping Up The Winter Classic

The NHL rang in the New Year in a big way this afternoon with the Winter Classic outdoor game in Buffalo between the Sabres and the Penguins. It was a snowy, frozen day in Buffalo... the perfect setting for an outdoor hockey game. In anticipation for the game I pulled on my brand new Sidney Crosby Winter Classic tee, dropped some extra ice in my Mountain Dew as a sign of solidarity for my friends and acquaintances lucky enough to be in attendance, and settled in for the NBC telecast. And the rest was history...

The Event...

  • The opening overhead shot of a snowy Ralph Wilson Stadium set the perfect mood for what promised to be an epic afternoon for true hockey fans.
  • The side rink for kids to play on behind one of the goals was a nice touch. How sweet would it have been to be one of the kids lucky enough to get to take a skate down there?
  • The players weren't especially bundled up for the most part, but full credit go to the Buffalo players rocking the eye black.
  • Great anthems. Really helped the crowd kick it up an extra notch to start things out.
  • The Penguins look great in the old powder blues. I'd love to see them pull these uniforms out again. I could see putting together a nice winning streak in those babies.
  • As far as play was concerned the weather could have been better, but it was perfect from an atmosphere point of view. Nice and snowy in the first, pretty decent for the second and most of the third, then snowy again for the end of the third, OT, and the shootout.
When you look up picturesque in the dictionary...

The Game Itself...
  • Huge goal by Colby 21 seconds in to start things off. I really thought that might have been enough to seal the win given the conditions. Must have been the soccer side of my brain at work.
  • Even in a blizzard Sidney Crosby is still the best thing on skates.
  • Nice goal by the Sabres to open the second. As mentioned by the announcers, it was hardly a coincidence the scoring was happening early in periods.
  • There was some genuine exciting hockey while the weather eased up a bit in the second. It was nice to see two of the hardest skating teams in the NHL get a chance to open it up for a bit.
  • The penalty call on Colby at the end of regulation was laughable. Especially given the circumstances.
  • The changing sides during the third period and overtime really rubbed me the wrong way. The NHL committed to playing a game in nasty weather, so deal with it. I don't see how making players skate to the far bench for the last 10 minutes of regulation and the second half of overtime is doing them any favors. Just a bad move on the NHL's part.
  • Nice shootout goal by Ales Kotalik. Kept it simple and nailed a perfect shot.
  • Kris Letang is flat out nasty in shootouts. It's just sick how bad this kid makes NHL goalies look.
  • Nice to see Sid nail the winner on the big stage. We all know shootouts aren't exactly his bread and butter, but it was an ideal finish to a great event if you're Gary Bettman (and if you are... YOU SUCK GARY!)
  • Ty Conklin is in the zone. If he can keep this up it could be real interesting to see who gets sent down once MAF gets healthy. Has Sabu been Sabu'ed?
  • Kudos to all the players! They played a fantastic game in conditions that were less-than-ideal at best.
  • Hats off to the ice crew too. Kept things safe and as playable as possible.
The Broadcast...
  • As I already said, beauty overhead shot to open the broadcast. Brought a smile to my face.
  • Mike Milbury eh? Someday NHL broadcasting execs will learn that there is a difference between having personality and being a jackass. Unfortunately this will probably be after we've all been subjected to 10+ years of Jeremy Roenick doing color for national broadcasts.
  • All in all the commentary was pretty solid. They didn't cater to people who know nothing about hockey as much as I feared they might. That said, someone should have told Emerick, Olczyk, and Pang that there were other players on the ice besides Sidney Crosby and Ryan Miller.
  • Speaking of Miller, that Amp Yo Mama commercial was pretty solid, but what is J.S. Aubin doing in there? Pascal Leclaire and Andrew Raycroft should both be shopping for new agents as I type this.
  • NBC continues to screw over the NHL with their intermissions. For a league that is trying to get back into the mainstream, how is a first period intermission consisting of talking about Slapshot and Bob Costas waxing nostalgic about his run-in with the "real" Ogie Oglethorpe going to help that? And if that wasn't enough, they took things to another level between the second and third with old Bobby Orr footage, the worst Sidney Crosby highlight montage ever, and then footage of Mike Milbury in the stands beating a fan with a shoe. How absurd is that? Can you imagine Ron Artest doing the halftime show for an NBA game 20 years from now and them showing footage from the brawl in Detroit and laughing about it? This is the kind of stuff that sets hockey back in many people's eyes and I seriously doubt it helped turn any casual viewers into hockey fans. NBC needs to get it together and actually try to market the game. I don't think there was one person watching who actually cared if Bob Costas almost got beat up on a bus 30 years ago, but I guarantee there were plenty of people watching who still don't know who Evgeni Malkin is.
Overall I think the Winter Classic lived up to its name. It generated a lot of buzz for the NHL and nobody could have watched that game and walked away disappointed. If you ask me the next logical step for the NHL would be an outdoor All-Star game. Maybe in New York (Giants Stadium anyone?) I wish I could have been there in person, mostly just so I could say I was, but I did get to jump around my living room trading high fives with my 17 month-old son after Sid iced the shootout win for the Pens. And that is something I wouldn't trade for tickets to any game ever. Happy New Year hockey fans, it's only going to get better.

1 comment:

NHLPens said...

Excellent write up, especially your comments about NBC and their silly intermission reports. I don't know about youm but I came away wanting to beat Bob Costas up on a bus....with a shoe.....