Remember how special the NHL Winter Classic was in its inaugural year in 2008? A New Year’s Day match-up between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills. An outdoor game with snowflakes in the air, featuring two of the NHL’s top teams. The game even went into a shootout.
The 2008 NHL Winter Classic transformed into an instant classic (no pun intended.) New Year’s Day, a day in the sports that always had been known as the day for college football bowl games, was now centered around hockey. Now, the Winter Classic is an American tradition for years to come. People from around the continent would travels miles to see this featured game.
Fast forward to 2014. January 1, Ann Arbor, Mich., Michigan Stadium, 105,491 fans, Detroit Red Wings host to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Similar to 2008, the game was played with snow in the air however, this time it was front of largest crowd to ever see a hockey game. The game was an instant classic, a 3-2 shootout victory for the Toronto Maple Leafs. End of story right? Wrong.
The Winter Classic has become such a success, that the NHL decided to feature an entire Stadium Series on the 2013-2014 season schedule. Six games, eleven teams, ranging from January 1 to March 2, with games played in two countries. Overkill.
The NHL went so far, it even featured one of the games in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which called for a high of 79 degrees. Why? Hockey is meant to be played in a cold atmosphere. Why would the NHL want to feature a game outdoors in California?
It just doesn’t make sense, and quite frankly the Stadium Series ruins the unique feel of the Winter Classic. The NHL was better off having a just one outdoor game a season. Sure, the NHL makes a huge revenue from the Stadium Series (which is why they’re doing this,) but it’s ruining the Winter Classic in the process.
The only way I would be happy with an additional outdoor game added to the NHL schedule would be if they kept the Heritage Classic into the future. The first Heritage classic occurred in 2003 then went away until the Winter Classic. They Heritage also happened in 2011 and this year. This season’s Heritage Classic will be part of the Stadium Series, the NHL is featuring two Canadian teams in the Heritage Classic, the Ottawa Senators and host Vancouver Canucks at the BC Place in Vancouver. I support making the Heritage Classic yearly, as long as its featuring two Canadian teams. Beyond that, leave outdoor hockey games to a minimum NHL. Keep them special!
What are your thoughts on the NHL’s Stadium Series?