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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 Winter Classic: the 10 Year Anniversary

Now that the 2018 edition of the NHL Winter Classic is in the books after a J.T. Miller OT goal gave the Rangers a 3-2 win over the Sabres, I wanted to give my take on the 10 year anniversary edition of the event.

This year's WC took it's pomp and circumstance to Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets.  Like any year the game has been played, there is always the unpredictability of the weather.  Cold temperatures, wind, snow, rain and fog are all issues that can pop up in any outdoor game in January.  Today was no different and despite the sun that shined overhead, the temperature was frigid (maybe not as frigid as Jeremy Roenick after jumping into the waters off Coney Island) and the wind was roaring.

This posed a problem for viewing the game on TV.  The shadows that were cast over the ice made it very difficult to view the puck or the players sometimes and this is coming from a die hard hockey fan.  I don't recall a year where this has been as much of an issue.  To complicate matters, the latest trend in broadcast sports (and the bane of my current existence) has infiltrated hockey as well and that is the "video game" viewing angle.  For those not familiar, think any of the NHL (insert year here) games.  The game play is from an overhead perspective to give the gamer a better angle of the ice they are trying to maneuver players on.  Makes sense when you have a controller in hand and are mashing buttons, attempting to propel good ol' JR down the ice for his 24th goal in the first period (at least while playing NHL 94...or NHLPA 93 if you had the luck of getting your hands on that one).

For a live event on television though, this isn't for me.  It's confusing.  It's obtrusive.  It makes me angry to be quite honest.  If growing the game and expanding your brand is your goal, and bringing in new fans is the way to get there, my opinion is that this doesn't help.  Maybe the "kids" like watching sports this way but I'm no where near there yet and I know others are with me.  When the biggest complaint from the casual fan or newbie strapping on their viewing skates for the first time is usually that they have a hard time tracking the puck on a live broadcast, Mother Nature made this a virtual viewing disaster.

If you watched and stuck around though, it was still decent hockey.  I think both teams fought hard, treating this game not as a worn out novelty but a grand stage game where the 2 points at stake actually mattered.  It wasn't as exciting as some WC games in the past 10 years but the OT battle was definitely fun to watch. Other than my critiques of the broadcast, here are a few other takeaways...

1.  I'm by no means an analyst but the Rangers would be so much better if they could stay out of the box; Other teams in the East would not allow that much power play time to go without consequences.
2.  Watching Jack Eichel...he's way too good to be playing for Buffalo.  He needs help and it's unfortunate he'll probably never get it.
3.  To NBC...great job limiting the Pierre factor.  Keep up the good work.
4.  It was nice to see them take the time to announce the USA Hockey teams; not just the men and women but also the sled hockey team.
5.  I had no idea Dick Enberg died and it happened over a week ago.  When your viewing habits include binge watching shows On Demand and through Netflix as well as endless cartoon shows, I guess it's no surprise though.

There have been many Winter Classic cards released over the years.  I thought I would leave a little montage here of some from my collection.

2012-13 Panini Prime Duals Winter Classic
Ryan Miller & Brooks Orpik

The card on the left was a promo card from the Toronto Expo while the Vanek came from the 2008-09 Upper Deck Winter Classic insert set.  This particular card has an error that was never corrected as it's missing the WC logo above the "HIGHLIGHTS" text.

2008-09 MVP Winter Classic
Wrigley Field
(While it doesn't feature any players, it's interesting to have a hockey card featuring a baseball stadium.)

 2008-09 OPC Winter Classic & 2008-09 Upper Deck Winter Classic
Sergei Gonchar & Ryan Malone
(It's interesting that "the snowy conditions created nostalgic feelings".  Indeed, they did.)

 2010-11 OPC Winter Classic 
Marc Savard
(apparently Marc attributes the Bruins win over the Flyers that year to the fans exuberant singing of Neil Diamonds' "Sweet Caroline"...seriously, that's what the card says)

 2010-11 Panini Contenders The Great Outdoors
Sidney Crosby
(this was an entire insert set devoted to outdoor games)

2011-12 Upper Deck Oversize Box-Topper Winter Classic
Evgeni Malkin
(These were inserted randomly into retail tins of Upper Deck cards.  This year featured both the Penguins and Capitals.  They came in a pressed plastic holder, which acts as a nice protective device.)

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