The Winter Classic no longer creates the national footprint it did when the NHL’s outdoor extravaganza was created 10 years ago. It no longer makes for appointment viewing. Fact is, the national TV audience that peaked at 2.5 million for the 2009 game at Wrigley Field between the Blackhawks and Red Wings before it was matched five years later for the Detroit-Toronto contest at the Big House at Ann Arbor, dipped to 1.5 million last year for Blues-Blackhawks at Busch Stadium. Even before the numbers are recorded for the game Monday at Citi Field, this unlikely matchup between the Rangers and Sabres was the least-hyped Winter Classic yet. There was no alumni event, no preceding indoor matchup to serve as an appetizer. It would have been a reach even for NBC to cast these two New York state reps for Wednesday Night Rivalry Night. But that made no difference at all while they played the Granddaddy of Them All in frigid Queens. If it is a given that all politics are local, it is equally true that these outdoor games are spectacles that are savored in their respective local markets and by the athletes who participate in them. The NHL hit it out of the park again. “I could easily play one every year and not get tired of it,” Henrik Lundqvist said after improving his and his team’s all-time outdoor record to 4-0 with their 3-2 overtime victory in which J.T. Miller got the walk-off. “It doesn’t get old to me.” And it didn’t get cold for the King, either, who noted that he had dressed properly and hoped that the fans did, too. This game may be special for the players, but it is always the presence and enthusiasm of the fans who stayed with it for hours in frigid climes that make the event what it is.
Why the Winter Classic is still an NHL home run
New York Post | Jan 2