The Rangers needed overtime, but they came away with the 3-2 win over Buffalo yesterday in the Winter Classic. They improved their outdoor record to 4-0, which covers two Winter Classics and a pair of Stadium Series games. Undefeated outdoors, as We Bleed Blue has coined, is a nice moniker to have.
I have a confession to make though. I could not watch the game yesterday. I was away for the holiday, and believe it or not there was no TV. I followed updates on Twitter and the gifs from @hayyyshayyy (a must follow). So if you were hoping on thoughts specific to yesterday’s game, I am sorry but that won’t be happening. But I prefer to give some thoughts on the Winter Classic itself.
1. The Winter Classic is a gimmick, but it is a fun gimmick. Unlike the shootout, which is basically a crap shoot and doesn’t add any inherent value to the game or the NHL product, the Winter Classic is a great fan experience. By all accounts, the atmosphere is amazing and the game itself, while just one game in the grand scheme of things, has a different feel to it.
2. That said, you likely won’t catch me at any Winter Classic. I was actually offered free tickets to both Stadium Series games, but turned them down. Why, you ask? Too effing cold for me. I know…layer up, have a few drinks, etc. But for me, there is no fun in being outside in sub-zero temps for 4+ hours. The Stadium Series was during a polar vortex. This year was under 10 degrees outside. That’s just not for me. Give me a scotch and the warmth of my apartment. Now, if the weather is around 30-40 degrees, that I’ll do. But this sub-zero stuff? Hell no.
3. You know which team I’d love to see host a Winter Classic? Nashville. I was there for a bachelor party during the 2016 playoffs, and that town was painted gold. There’s Nissan Stadium right across the river from downtown Nashville where the bars/Bridgestone Arena are. It’s all walking distance too. But you likely won’t see it happen, because Nashville isn’t a big market.
4. I do think that the outdoor games lose their luster when you start throwing in all the other outdoor games. Heritage Classic. Stadium Series. I get it, they are a fun experience for the fans. The great aspect of the Winter Classic is that there’s one of them per year. I don’t know if this is too much of a good thing, but the league is running the risk of the game losing its luster.
5. The last two points bring me to the main reason we have the Winter Classic: Money. It’s why you’ll never see Nashville, or Winnipeg, or any other good small market team in the game. Buffalo draws because it’s Buffalo. The same way Minnesota would draw because it’s Minnesota. It’s also why we rarely see a Canadian team in the Winter Classic.
6. But I guess that’s why we have the Stadium Series games and the Heritage Classic. It’s not the New Year’s Day game, competing with NCAA Bowl games. Those games are during other times of the year. Again, it’s all about the money.
7. It may all be about the money, but it’s still a really cool and fun experience. As Henrik Lundqvist said, it’s not just the fans that get amped for it. The players know that a win in the Winter Classic is different from any other win.