The Winter Classic: Past, Present, And Future

The Pittsburgh Penguins And Washington Capitals Dueling In The 2011 Winter Classic. Source: tbd.com

The NHL Winter Classic is an annual event held on New Year’s day, one of two regular season games played outdoors.  Back to hockey’s roots, this season’s Winter Classic, the 5th annual event of its kind, will be held on January 2nd, 2012 when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers.  This is a prestigious and exclusive hockey game and a major honor for the teams selected.  The Winter Classic is a spectacular feast for all the hockey fans and a great way to ring in the New Year.

The First annual Winter Classic was played on January 1st, 2008 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres in Ralph Wilson stadium.   The game had an NHL record crowd of 71,217 fans in attendance.  The Penguins would go on to win 2-1 in a shoot-out.  The 2008 Winter Classic was so successful that a second was held January 1st, 2009 between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in Wrigley Field.   The game had the highest American television ratings of any hockey game in 33 years and the Red Wings would go on to win 6-4 in a scoring slugfest.  The 3rd annual Winter Classic on January 1st, 2010 was between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins in Fenway Park.  The Boston Bruins would be the first home team to win a Winter Classic with a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory.  The 4th annual Winter Classic and the most recent was played on January 1st, 2011 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins in Heinz Field.  The Penguins would fall to the Capitals 3-1.  The Penguins are the first NHL team to play in the Classic more than once.  Also, the home teams would fall to 1-3 in the Winter Classic all time.  

Now in its 5th year, the Rangers will take on the Flyers in Philadelphia but on January 2nd!  These teams have played each other once this season and in that game the Rangers came out on top 2-0 as Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 2nd shut-out of the season.  This should be a great match with two vintage hockey clubs taking on each other outdoors battling the conditions and playing old time gritty hockey.

As this game is fast approaching, on Monday the Rangers unveiled their jersey for the Winter Classic.  Henrik Lundqvist commented; “I’m excited to see it on the ice with full equipment and not jeans.  I think it’s going to look really good out there. They did a good job designing it.”  Rangers captain Ryan Callahan also commented on the Rangers Classic jerseys; “They did a great job. They’ve got the throwback look and the logo from the ’26 team. It looks nice. They did a great job with it.”  The Flyers Owner and Chairman Ed Snider said; “This is definitely different, and definitely special. It’s a special occasion.”

The Winter Classic is no doubt a special occasion, but as we look ahead to future Classics, which teams could we expect to play?  The Winter Classic usually consists of two big time franchises playing in a hockey city such as New York, Philly, or Boston.  In 2013, I expect the event to make its way to Detroit.  The Red Wings are in discussions with the NHL about hosting the Winter Classic in the next 2 seasons.  If the Red Wings are to host in 2013, who would they play?  In my opinion either of two teams have a good shot; the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks.  The Red Wings and the Sharks have one of the best rivalries in the NHL today.  The Red Wings have been eliminated by the Sharks in post-season play the last two years.  There is always bad blood when these teams play and I think that the NHL would be looking at such exciting match-up.  The Vancouver Canucks  are one of the most talked about teams in the NHL today with lots of star power and their recent competitive play in the playoffs.  The Canucks and Red Wings are two of the best and most popular teams in the NHL today.  My vote for next year’s Winter Classic goes to Vancouver vs. Detroit.  It is time a Canadian team plays in this classic event and there is no doubt there would be some great hockey!

Thanks for reading.

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Tags: Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres Chicago Blackhawks Detroit Redwings New York Rangers Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks Washington Capitals Winter Classic

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