Complain all you want about the quality of the hockey at the Winter Classic. The puck is bouncing, the weather tends to slow the game down, it's silly that they have to stop the third period at the ten-minute mark. No one's arguing.
But it doesn't really matter. The Winter Classic is only partially about what you're watching. More than that, it's about what you're seeing, which is a stunning spectacle. The annual outdoor game is beautiful, and that beauty is captured, well, beautifully every single year by some of the best sports photographers in the business.
Between the snow, the open air, the packed stadium, and those crisp red and blue sweaters, there was plenty to capture.
Mike Babcock reprises the old-timey mobster look he rocked in the 2009 Winter Classic. In this photo, he's either looking out at the ice surface, or a body in a trunk.
Also in excellent headwear choices: Jonathan Bernier, proud Canadian, reps the toque.
A betoqued Daniel Alfredsson in warm-up, with the snow falling all around him. Great shot.
The Leafs' bench marvels at a rare sight: a house full of fans that seem and sound genuinely excited to be at one of their games.
The Leafs and Red Wings head to the ice in their red and blue sweaters. Can we stop for a moment and talk about how cool that looked? Can we have more of this? In the age of HDTV, it doesn't seem nearly as pressing to have one team in white.
Randy Carlyle and the Leafs' bench watch the action through the falling snow. Carlyle doesn't seem overly happy to be out there, and you can't blame him, since he doesn't even get to skate around to get his temperature up, but I'm sure it's a relief for him to know that, despite their wearing helmets, his players' brains aren't going to overheat in this weather.
And speaking of people that can't move, here's a fan slowly becoming a snowman as the game progresses.
A classic Winter Classic hockey hug.
A great aerial shot of Michigan Stadium, done up for the game and packed full of fans braving the cold to watch it.
And here's a lovely shot from the roof.
Even indoors, this would be a great shot of one of the game's best saves. But the snow on the ice and the open-air above Jimmy Howard and Nazem Kadri kicks this up a level.
Pavel Datsyuk beats Jonathan Bernier in the shootout. Again, the open air makes this shot.
The Leafs win a defensive zone faceoff. I love everything about this photo. Jonathan Bernier's toque, the packed house, the massive screen behind them, the white sky. Gorgeous.