When the first NHL Winter Classic debuted on Jan. 1, 2008, it was lauded as a tremendous idea. It was unique. It was fun. And it was a break away from the mundane New Year’s Day schedule of college bowl games rendered meaningless in the current format.
But as reports came out over the last few days, it was clear the league was looking to capitalize on that unique idea. Just one outdoor game? How about more? How about six?
How about taking a great idea and watering it down, much like that college bowl game schedule? If you’re all for that, you’re in luck. Because it looks like the league is taking its unique idea and making it very not unique.
TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report that there will be six outdoor games next season, including the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1. The Blackhawks hosted a true Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2009, when they played the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. I wasn’t there that day but I’m told it was one hell of an event and atmosphere.
The atmosphere will be highly charged on March 1, 2014, too, with the Penguins at Soldier Field. But that great novelty, that wonderfully unique Winter Classic idea is now gone. Now, it’s just another bunch of games that just happen to be outside. There’s no buildup for that Jan. 1 marquee game that gave so many of us, bored with the college bowl-game tedium, a breath of fresh Winter Classic air.
Yes, the people will come. The lockout, and all the aggravation that fans felt and the NHL/NHLPA greed they seethed about during those four months – most got over it quick, didn’t they? – will be long gone. They’ll flock to all of these games, just like the league wants them to do. It’s for revenue purposes. I get that. Everybody gets that. But it’s going to get old faster than it would’ve if it had just been kept to that beautiful Jan 1. game.
That great Winter Classic idea has morphed into a stadium series. The uniqueness was fun while it lasted.