Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Auld Lang Syne
It was 95 degrees today, so it makes perfect sense that today's update would be about hockey. The Winter Classic specifically. A few years ago, the NHL started a new tradition of holding an outdoor hockey game on New Year's Day. The first Winter Classic was played by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in upstate New York.. In the following years, the game was hosted at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. The annual outdoor game is on my mind since the NHL made the officiall announcement about the venue and teams involved in the 2011 Classic. It was a poorly kept secret as pretty much anyone who follows hockey knew what they were going to say months ago.
This year's game will feature the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals at Heinz Field. Yes, you read that correctly. The Penguins are being featured in another Winter Classic game. In a non-Olympic year, the Classic is one of the best ways for the league to reach a wider audience. Because of that I can understand they would want to showcase teams with two of the biggest stars in the league: Sidney Crosby & Alex Ovechkin. A "rivalry" was manufactured between these two guys from the minute they both laced up in the league. It seems to be a never ending question of who is the better player, blah blah blah. Sidney Crosby's the league's poster boy because he is a talented and good looking kid. He's marketable. I understand this. I just don't understand why we have to be subjected to another game where two players are all that will be talked about.
Let me make something perfectly clear. I am not pro-Crosby. I am staunchly team Ovie and would take him every time if I were building my own NHL team. I also understand that the Winter Classic isn't for hardcore fans like me. It's something new to try and lure in the ever elusive "casual fan" they have been trying to get into arenas for decades. There is only one problem with this plan. The word "casual". A casual fan won't buy season tickets or pour over hockey magazines or spend hundreds of dollars on merchandise every season. A casual fan can turn into a loyal fan, but more often than not I have seen casual fans jump from one bandwagon to another depending on what team is winning that season.
The Winter Classic is a showcase of the league's talent and it should be. But there are talented players outside of Pittsburgh or Washington. But, until they figure out a way to maintain an ice surface on St. Pete Beach, I won't see my team's stars get to showcase their talent anywhere except Sunsports or the St. Pete Times Forum. Spread the wealth, give us something different to see and enjoy while we're nursing our hangovers on New Year's Day.