The conditions Saturday in Pittsburgh wasn't what the league had in mind. Photo Source:

Winter Classic: Where To From Here?

So we’ve all had a few days to decompress from the hype and spectacle that was the 2011 Winter Classic. Everything from why the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, to soft ice, to rain, to HBO, to the ratings, to where the next one should be, to if there should be another one has been discussed ad infinitum. So now what? If you read to Dan Shaughnassy’s Sports Illustrated column from 1/3, he thinks the idea has outlived its usefulness (the flaws and lunacy of the column are too numerous to mention and require a separate post, but it’s worth a laugh).  A twitter search would have found fans of the other 28 NHL teams lamenting the decision of the teams involved.  Hockey Night In Canada’s Don Cherry calls it a gimmick, which is beautifully ironic coming from a guy who makes a point to wear an ‘outrageous’ suit every week on Coach’s Corner.

Personally, I love the Winter Classic! Maybe I’m just a Florida boy who’s envious of the stories of backyard rinks and frozen ponds and playing shinny from morning until dinner time, but I like it.  And I’ll give the league a ton of credit for creating a place for itself on New Year’s Day in what is normally an avalanche of college football bowl games. That’s not to say the game is not without flaws. These are some of the changes I’d like to see:

– Add Canadian Teams: This one is a no-brainer. It probably won’t happen as long as NBC is the network of choice, but this SHOULD happen. To not include those teams, especially the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens is just nonsensical from a hockey standpoint.

– Permanently move the game to prime time: Despite the move from 1pm to 8pm, the game registered positive ratings. At 1pm on New Year’s Day, there are at least three college football games going on (most involving the Southeastern Conference and Big 10 conference, which are ratings giants normally) that drastically segment the audience. At 8 pm, there is only one game (which this year was the Oklahoma-Connecticut dog of a Fiesta Bowl) to contend with. The less sports to contend with, the better for the Winter Classic.

– Don’t just celebrate history of the teams involved, celebrate the game’s history. On the eve of the game, retired players from the Caps and Pens played in a Legends game. A fine idea, but why limit things to just those two teams for such an event? One of the few things Major League Baseball gets right for events like this is that there is never a shortage of the game’s greats around, regardless of the teams playing. Find any and every excuse to have every great living player there and celebrate them. Not only do you please your die hard fan, but you educate the newer ones as to those who came before and laid the foundation.

– Now that the Sidney Crosby/Alex Ovechkin happened, market other stars: Now don’t get that statement wrong. The Pens/Caps game was a great choice for this year’s game. When you have a rivalry between two of the best players in the game, you have to take advantage. But you certainly don’t want this to become of yearly game. I’m not saying that neither of these two teams should be in one again, but now you can use one of them (and their drawing power) and pair them with the likes of a Steven Stamkos, or Matt Duchene, young guys who can really play but can catch people’s eye and make them take notice. The league has room for more than two spotlights.

Thanks for reading! Any and all comments are welcomed and appreciated!

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Tags: Alex Ovechkin Matt Duchene Montreal Canadiens Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby Steven Stamkos Toronto Maple Leafs Washington Capitals Winter Classic

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