The NHL's annual Winter Classic held on New Year's Day has become tradition. Four games in and between the revenues generated, sponsorship dollars brought in and monster television ratings on NBC, it's clear that it has cemented its place in the landscape as one of the premier events of the sports calendar.
That's why the decision, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, over the weekend that the 2011-12 NHL schedule will not feature the all-Canadian Heritage Classic is the right one.
The outdoor game idea was a unique one that instantly caught the attention of the casual and non-hockey fan. Putting two outdoor games on the schedule weeks apart on an annual basis would only water things down and chip away at the specialness of seeing meaningful open air hockey.
It also keeps the NHL's original outdoor game, the Heritage Classic, special to Canadians as the Calgary Sun's Steve MacFarlane writes:
Making the celebration of the roots of hockey in Canada an annual or bi-ennial tradition is probably inevitable, the way the Winter Classic is now used to grow the game in the U.S. every New Year's Day.
But you have to like the fact the league isn't cheapening just the second outdoor NHL game on Canadian soil in eight years by jumping right into a commitment to a third in some other city no doubt clamoring for the rights to host because of the added revenue from jacked-up ticket prices, food and drink sales and merchandising.
Instead of taking the meaning out of it the way romance has been spoiled by Valentine's Day, the league is ensuring by leaving the date of the next one in limbo that it continues to be considered a special event.
The league will bring back the Heritage Classic at some point in the future and they should, maybe bi-annually. The atmosphere in places like Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, and now Winnipeg will make for excellent games in the future. And while the dollars made from this season's game at McMahon Stadium in Calgary were record-breaking, keeping the outdoor game idea special will help the revenues generated increasing rather than becoming stale.