An optimist would call it buzz. A pessimist would call it hype. I just call it confusing.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres are set to do battle in the annual – it happened once before, some four years ago, thus it’s annual – NHL Winter Classic.
It will be the first hockey game, more specifically NHL hockey game, played outdoors, in the United States, on a Tuesday.
It will take place on Jan. 1 in Buffalo, New York, also know Biblically (the date and the town) as a Sign of the Apocalypse.
There has been some wild public exhilaration from those who eagerly support this endeavor – namely NBC, who’s broadcasting the game and the NHL itself, which needs publicity like Farrah needs Botox.
The excitement stems mainly from the fact the game will played outdoors, apparently mirroring the pond hockey conditions many of the participants grew playing up in - assuming, of course, they grew up playing pond hockey in converted football stadiums in front of 70,000 people.
NBC has banked so much on this event that they’re actually sending Bob Costas - who has endless previous hockey experience having broadcast 1972 Syracuse Blazers games in the old (I’m guessing) WTF league and an airplane to cover the game. In regards to the plane, NBC producer Sam Flood (evidently straight-faced) notes, “I expect to see one of the replays of a goal from the airplane, which has never been done before in hockey" (see -some jokes just write themselves).
Of course, with the game taking place outdoors, everyone and everything will be at the mercy of Mother Nature and the elements. Organizers are reportedly excited about the unpredictability and difficulty the weather conditions may cause during the game, whether it’s Sidney Crosby momentarily blinded on a breakaway by a sudden snowdrift, or a larger gust of wind ripping the net from its moorings and decapitating an usher.
Either way, reality TV means a potential ratings bonanza, so, for now, let’s assume the usher’s a hapless loner who sells cigarettes to school kids or the guy kicks (er, kicked) puppies.
Ultimately, though, you have to wonder whether this is yet another recipe for disaster for the National Hockey League and it’s tenuous, on-again-off-again relationship with Miss and Mister America.
Say this thing proves to be immensely popular (stop laughing), what then? Will the league be forced to put on more outdoor events? Will playing indoors be akin to slap-fighting?
For that answer we need to go back to NBC, and back to Bob Costas:
"It really is an event. I don't think you have to be somebody who follows the NHL day in and day out to enjoy it as an event.”
Translation: For one day, one special day of the year, all of America, at least hopefully all of America, will be thinking of us and of hockey and of the National Hockey League.
That’s about par for the course.
Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.
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