Thoughts on the Winter Classic

Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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.

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  • Everything is about money in sports unfortunately.

    That being said, they should do the one game per year and make it exclusive and the annual novelty. All the other games are too much. Alternate teams to get more of them involved (of course that won’t happen).

    I wondered how it was for the players seeing the puck when there was a mix of sun and shade on the ice. Has to be tough.

    Both goalies played very well.

    • It’s a money grab no doubt. If Canadian cities can fill an CFL football stadium they should be able to hold a Winter Classic in the Great White North. Perhaps after Grey Cup weekend before it gets too damn cold. Yesterday game was a beauty though. The organizers did a bang up job professional job and it was a very entertaining game. If I didn’t live on the other side of the continent I would of been in attendance.

  • Yeah well it is all about money, BUT–this is a great showcase for a sport that continues to grow its fan base, attracting younger and older fans. The uniqueness of this event and others like it provides exposure to a whole new fan base where newbies get to see the most exciting game played by a group of young men that are (for the most part), humble, respectful and fun to watch.

    Its a great event and great for the game of hockey.

    • What really got me upset about this camera was how it was positioned perfectly for the power play against us, smack dabe behind Henrik, the entire PK had me on the edge of my seat seeing it like hank had too…


    • I thought “WTF” is this? Effing horrible especially when part of the ice was in the sun and part was in the shade.

    • I went to the game, and let me say, you missed a great event. I went with my 24 Y/O son and 29 Y/O son in law, both huge Ranger fans, and we layered up, bought a ton of those chemical handwarmers, had some brandy, and toughen it out. We froze a little, but the game was great – if a bit hard to see, and the experience was a blast. We had Sabres fans to our left, Rangers fans everywhere else, and when you hear about 35,000 people singing the goal song in an outdoor stadium, it brings, well CHILLS to your spine!
      I am hugely glad I went, even though I HATE the cold, and though I am unlikely to do it again in the future, if they go back to Yankee Stadium and play the Penguins or Bruins….. Mayyyybbeeeee.
      As to the camera – I watched much of the replay on, and I thought the video was spectacular. I loved the overhead camera, and the angles for Grabner’s goal, and many of the other plays. It was like skating next to them. Mind you, I spent several hundred games on the Press bench in the penalty box at the Garden in the 70s/80s, when there was no glass, and the players would serve their penalties with nothing between them except us photogs and a cop. The overhead camera was literally better than sitting on the open ice. You could see the patterns of play, got a feeling for the speed and motion…brilliant. The regular broadcast view was unwatchable. Super HD was really created for hockey. I thought the Rangers’ jerseys, caught in the late afternoon sun against the white ice, with the blue sky above, were spectacular looking, too. They should become home alternates.
      Great event, great fun, great outcome, too friggin cold. Win Win Win

  • Yeah, as far as tracking the puck went, it was hard to watch. But, what a fun event and good game too. I enjoyed it despite the poor camera views.

  • I thought the camera angles got better as the game went. That first period, especially with the shadows was pretty difficult to watch. I know this game draws a lot of casual viewers so I’m sure it was pretty tough for people who don’t regularly watch hockey.

    I still don’t get why these games aren’t exclusively played at football stadiums. Baseball stadiums just aren’t designed to watch this type of back and forth action that goes across the field. The camera angles and the seating just doesn’t really work in my opinion. Football stadiums are designed around a field not much different in shape and size to a hockey rink. And the fans really are right on top of the action as opposed to being hundreds of feet away in a baseball stadium.

  • An entertaining game, with a great conclusion, but I agree with Spozo re: using a football stadium. I felt bad for the people sitting in the tiers out in right and left fields. Would also probably lessen the shadow problem that was soannoying during the 1st period.

    It’s also obvious that networks need to learn how to utilize camera drones. They were pretty good going north-south but on a quick turnover they took too long to change direction and got behind the play. I’m sure they’ll figure it out in time.

    Loved the camera behind the net for the power play. Loved the slow-mo during the replay. Loved the times that the drone was following the play low and close to the ice, like a Skycam, and once or twice from a higher vantage point above the rink, sorta like watching from the MSG Bridge seats.

  • How is it that I didn’t even realize they still do the Stadium Series?!?! I still love the Winter Classic, but enough is enough. Let’s keep it to one outdoor game per year.

  • I really loved our sweaters… Loved them as soon as they were revealed. Would love to see the boys wear them for one home game at least. They wore their classics from 2012 for a home game if I remember correctly. I’m trying to remember if they wore the stadium jerseys for a home game. Don’t remember if they did

    • I guess it will depend on sales and inventory. Like someone said previously. it’s all about money.

    • I liked them a lot too. But, I think I read somewhere that Adidas, which now makes all the jerseys, and the NHL, agrees that there would be no alternate jerseys this season except for special events like the Winter Classic. So if true, we probably will not see them.

    • Like the sweaters but still think they should have put a twist on the Old Liberty Jersey … I know E3 will chime in with some stupid crap but that’s all good . That was the best looking Alt Seeater by far and should still be used . Only thing wrong with the sweater this year was the shield on the shoulder used for the C and A’s , they should have been placed some where else or differently

      • The Lady Liberty Jersey was lame. Sorry. I’m a traditionalist all the way.

        Feeling a little sensitive KS? Awwww….

          • Really? See my friend Richter below. And pretty much any Rangers fan I ever talked to HATED that wonderful parting gift from Neil Smith. An abomination of the Rangers uniform not seen since John Ferguson shamefully altered the design in the mid-70s.

          • Agreed. HATED the Libert jersey. FUGLY like the side of a painted van.
            The Classic jerseys were…CLASSIC

          • Still butthurt over the blog name I see .. lmao
            As an alternate , great jersey … Didn’t say go with it for a home jersey

  • Why not have one at the meadowlands …. Rangers play an original 6 Winter Classic , Isles play someone and Devils play the next one …. 3 games all right there = Big $$$ but I don’t know anything ?

    • Pretty absurd idea. The Meadowlands have two football tenants. So you’d have to have both the Giants and Jets on the road for Week 17 if not Week 16 as well, thus creating a scheduling logjam. I doubt the Giants in particular would ever agree to it because they practice right there in the complex. Then if the Giants and/or Jets are hosting a wildcard playoff game, then it’s even more of a distraction.

      Not to mention….THREE games at the Meadowlands? Why would Islanders fans want to travel to Jersey? Are there even enough Islanders or Devils fans to even consider having them host a game? Could they pull it off without the Rangers as an opponent? Would a National TV audience care at all? No, no and no.

      You know a lot about many things (other than anything about goaltending obviously)….but I don’t think you have thought this out very well.

      • So don’t make it a classic … You won’t conflict with the other garbage … Late Jan or early Feb … You go Friday nite , Saturday and Sunday …. Bring big market teams in ala Cynthia’s gang , O’vie against the Devils and Islanders and a original 6 against the Blueshirts … Pretty simple . It’s all sitting there , you get 3 games out of the traveling circus they bring . You’ll get ur better camera angles and Waaa Laaa revenue city . The name still has you .. Lol

        • I agree, it’s more palatable as a Stadium Series, so I’ll give you that. But in that lame Stadium? I’m not so sure that would be much of an attraction. And again, are you SURE the Devils or Isles could, as the host team, draw a big enough crowd to maximize profits? I seriously doubt it.

          The Rangers are the only team in the NY Metro that has the fan base to pull off an outdoor game. And getting out to the Meadowlands is a royal pain in the behind. Much better to have the subway involved, which means the baseball stadiums are the way to go.

  • No question, the camera angles and shadows were really awful at times. They need to figure out a way to get the proper lighting in there to eliminate the shadows. For a casual fan looking in on TV, it was a distraction, as was the bizarre moving camera that made it almost impossible to follow the puck.

    I get that a football stadium in many ways is better for TV coverage and site lines. But with few exceptions, football stadiums are generally unattractive and boring facilities. (Think the awful Meadowlands!). Baseball stadiums are quirky and have personalities which adds to the whole aura. Also, the NHL and MLB have many parternships in place so there’s that relationship.

    I think you will largely see these games in either iconic CFB stadiums like Notre Dame or Michigan in the future, or MLB venues. NFL is just tougher to pull off and there’s little margin for error scheduling-wise if something goes wrong.

    I love the outdoor games. Brilliant move by the owners and it’s still going strong. I wouldn’t worry about oversatutation either. I’d have the Winter Classic every year obviously and choose teams that have a national following and venues that are fun to go to. But I’d also add as many Stadium Series games as the NHL could handle. Doing what they did in Yankee Stadium with the games between the Rangers, Isles and Devils was awesome and they should do it every couple of years. Same at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Comerica in Detroit, PNC in Pittsburgh, Citizens Bank in Philly, Ralph Wilson in Buffalo, any Canadian market, and anywhere else hockey fans are passionate enough to fill a huge stadium in late January or February. It doesn’t have to be a network TV event. That would be a bad idea in fact to have anything more than just the Winter Classic on national TV. The Stadium Series should be a local focus completely.

    Just my two cents.

    Lastly, to not have the Rangers and Sabres alums playing or even introduced was a major gaffe IMO. That should be SOP for these events.

    • I would’ve loved seeing Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert again.. unfortunately the Rick Martin piece of the French Connection line passed away some years ago

  • There is nothing like being there, especially if you go with your kid or someone else you love. And the cold only adds to the sweetness of the memories as years go by.

    My first NFL game was at the old Cleveland stadium in December in a snowstorm in sub-zero weather. I was with my brother, Dad and grandfather. The game was a thrilling comeback victory by the home team. I will never, ever forget that day. And the freezing temperature and how cold my feet were are part of those memories. Many years later, I took my son to the Stadium Series games. It was damn cold. We still talk about how much fun we had at those games, as we drink hot chocolate out of our commemorative cups.

    Yesterday, my brother took my son and nephew to the Winter Classic. They had a ball. And I am confident that they will talk about this experience they shared in the cold for the rest of their lives. So, yeah, we can be jaded by the commercialism and the overdoing of the outdoor games and the bad weather. But the joy of the experience and the lasting memories it brings are so very worth it.

    If you ever have a chance to go, do it. I highly recommend it.

    • Those are great stories. Thanks for sharing them!

      I remember going with my Dad to some brutally cold Giants games at Yankee Stadium, as well as a bitter cold Army-Navy in Philly game back in the 1960s. Then in the late 70s pretty much every Yankees post season night game was freezing! I was there for Chambliss’ HR in 1976 and Reggie’s 3 HR game in 1977. It was SO cold but so worth it.

      Then in later years, I took my son to see the Giants and Packers at Lambeau several times (not the famous deep freeze game in 2008 that sent them to the SB but several others), as well as many Opening Day games at Wrigley Field which always seemed to be brutally cold. Last year, we went to Wrigley to see the Yankees play the Cubs. Gardner with the incredible 9th Inning homer. The cold wind just cut through all of us. Great memories!

      It’s a badge of honor to sit through those conditions, and especially great when your team wins. Great memories!

  • Had a tuff time watching in the beging with the sun. But as tthe shade took over was better, Fun game, great outcome LGR

  • I’d like to see the Hurricanes be a part of the Winter Classic, but in Hartford wearing Whalers throwbacks and playing against the Bruins or the Rangers. I think a lot of hockey fans would pay good money to see the Whale again.

    • Just take my money.. I miss the Whale big time and those classic tilts in the mall. I have a Whaler jersey in my closet

  • I thought the game coverage was terrible. Between the bad camera angles and the lighting problems, I often could not tell which team was attacking and which team was defending, much less identify individual players. After about 15 minutes, I turned the game off. I also don’t think that a win over the Sabres is anything to rave about.

    Sorry to be sour grapes, but that is the way I saw it.

    • they were doing a fly-by-wire thing for most of the first period, and it was horrible. The camera couldn’t focus in or keep up. They abandoned that approach after the 1st to much better results.

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