June 21, 2009
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The NHL's Winter Classic was a brilliant marketing idea from the very beginning: a picturesque snow globe scene featuring meaningful hockey with a historic stadium set as the backdrop.
In 2003, the Heritage Classic worked because it was the first time the NHL had done it during the regular season and the legendary players who took part in the pregame festivities. Winter Classic I featured the NHL's marketing star, Sidney Crosby(notes), and a dramatic ending. Winter Classic II had the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, and above all, a beautiful Wrigley Field in January. Winter Classic III is rumored to be heading to Boston at Fenway Park and could feature the Bruins and Washington Capitals.
Could a second Winter Classic game on New Year's Day work?
Winter Classic 3.5? Well, that sounds like it may be Calgary from what ESPN's E.J. Hradek reported Thursday night.
Of course, an important first step in the process of adding another outdoor game on January 1, 2010 would be informing the player's association, which TSN's Darren Dreger, who spoke with NHLPA director of player affairs Glen Healy, said hasn't been done yet:
''This is all news to me. We are breaking news, this is an insider moment that Calgary is potentially going to get an outdoor game and this is the first I've heard of it.''
''We have never been approached by the league about a second outdoor game ever in Calgary and if they want to approach us, then our numbers are in the book.''
Y'know, you could've just said ‘no' Glen and left out the sass.
The idea of creating a second outdoor game on New Year's Day will be discussed on Thursday at the next competition committee meeting. It must be approved by seven of the 10 committee members to come to fruition. The CBC, feeling left out in the cold the past two years, wants an all-Canadian game to counter the American flavor that NBC has been providing viewers on January 1.
Don't start dreaming about which throwback jerseys the Calgary Flames will sport or which of their fellow Canadian teams they might faceoff against just yet. If last year's competition committee meeting is any indication, a second Winter Classic game in 2010 will be just an idea and not an actual event, as NHLPA head Paul Kelly pointed out to ESPN's Scott Burnside:
"I don't think I have to do that. I will tell you that last year when the competition committee met this issue came up and all five players and, in fact, all voting members of both sides of the fence did not support a second Winter Classic game," Kelly said.
As Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun opined on Friday, since 2010 is an Olympic year, a second outdoor game may help boost the League's profile since there won't be an All-Star Game next season.
Listen, the outdoor game is great. With the right weather, it's a beautiful sight on anyone's television. It's a great day on the NHL calendar to look forward to and truly one of the best events that the League puts on.
But please, let's keep this to just a one time deal per season. The NHL has a great thing going right now with the Winter Classic. It attracts the attentions of mainstream media and the casual fan. Why dilute the excitement and uniqueness of it all by adding a second game? So Canadian fans want to see two of their own take the ice inside McMahon Stadium in Calgary or if the Canadiens have their way, Olympic Stadium in Montreal? Then make that the Winter Classic game one of next few seasons. The more the NHL keeps doing it correctly, the bigger the interest that will build and the fact that having two Canadian teams involved won't hurt television ratings for NBC. People will tune in because it'll be a must-see event on the sporting calendar.
The NHL is coming off another great Stanley Cup Finals, with its highest TV ratings in 36 years. Add that with next season's Winter Classic in storied Fenway Park and then the Olympics a month later and it's clear, hockey is on a serious upswing. The mojo is good. Let's not mess with it.