While I was on vacation this week, I was surprised to hear some Team 1200 hosts so passionately against the NHL’s Winter Classic, referring to it as gimmicky and stupid. I enjoy the thing. I made a point to watch it. I cannot say that for very many non-Senator matchups. No, it’s wasn’t the greatest thing in hockey but it was something different and fun in the insanely long, sometimes monotonous NHL regular season.
The conditions certainly weren’t great, just as they won’t be in the NFL today or in MLB in April. The rain caused problems for both sides equally. I remain shocked the puck didn’t stick to the ice more. Anyone who’s ever tried to play a game after the Zamboni has dumped too much water on the ice will know what I’m talking about. The puck often comes to a dead stop in those conditions.
I know, I know. Not a great game. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the two faces of the game – the guys in the magazine spreads and TV commercials – both went without a point and registered a minus-1 rating.
It’s hard to say why I enjoy it. Could be a memory thing. I played so much outdoor hockey as a kid - shinny on the Jock River and on outdoor rinks in and around Venosta, Quebec. I remember having to toss off the winter jacket while sweating through all-day games, negotiating the bumpy ice and snow build up, sometimes using snow boots for goal posts. I recall the sight and feel of each breath, the frozen runny nose, and cold fingers battling frozen laces while seated in a snowbank. Even amidst the wealth, fame and bright lights, the Winter Classic brings at least a little of that back.
I’m not sure the second one in Calgary next month will conjure up anything at all. Just as I don’t want a second Christmas, which I’m sure is in the works in a boardroom somewhere, I don’t need a second Winter Classic. Having said that, I’ll just be indifferent about next month’s sequel. I won’t hate it.
If I was truly going to get a hate on for certain NHL games, it would be for Columbus-Nashville tonight. Or Phoenix-Minnesota. Those are the games and matchups that offend me. Let’s cancel those duds because of rain. I’m sure it’s raining somewhere today.