NHL Winter Classic – A Celebration of Hockey

The 2012 NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park

The opening ceremony of the 2012 NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA.

The 2012 NHL Winter Classic was held Monday, January 2nd in Philadephia at Citizens Bank Park, normally the home of MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies. In the 5th annual game held at the beginning of the New Year, it was a classic matchup of long time rivals the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers.

It was the 264th game between the two division rivals, which ranks 6th among New York Ranger opponents* and 1st among Philadelphia Flyer opponents.

*Being a member of the National Hockey League’s Original Six, the New York Rangers have five other opponents they’ve played a tad more than 264 times not to mention playing 41 more years in the NHL than the Philadelphia Flyers. That being said, the Philadelphia Flyers have arguably been their biggest rival since entering the league in the 1967 NHL expansion. The rivalry even has a couple nicknames, Battle of the Broads and Broad Street vs Broadway.

The National Hockey League has had a pretty good history of choosing the right opponents for their annual regular season event. Announced on September 26th, it couldn’t have been written any better.

The teams were two points apart in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings with the New York Rangers at 50 points and the Philadelphia Flyers at 48 points so the winning team would be in first place in one way or another.

Due to warm conditions and sun glare, the National Hockey League decided to delay the game by a couple hours, which may have caused some people to miss the end of the game (and by some people, I mean ME!)

At 2:20pm, the puck (or was it the ClutterPuck?) was dropped and the conditions had improved to 41˚F with overcast skies so the NHL knew what they were doing when they decided to delay the game. It allowed for the game to go from day to night and even included some snow flurries during the second period. Starting during the day and then needing to turn on the stadium lights to keep the game lit properly at night was a nice perk for delaying the game. The weather has been pretty amazing at every Winter Classic.

Game Summary
The game went more than halfway through the 2nd period before the 1st goal was scored in the 2012 Winter Classic. It was scored by the Philadelphia Flyers Braydon Schenn and it was his first career NHL goal* off a bad rebound from Henrik Lundqvist save of a Matt Carle shot from the left point. This is why you shoot the puck and why you shoot it low.

*How ‘bout that for your first career goal? That makes two players and two Philadelphia Flyers to score their first career NHL goal in the Winter Classic. Danny Syvret scored his first career goal in the 2010 NHL Winter Classic in Boston at Fenway Park. It was the first goal of that game too…in the 2nd period…and Mark Recchi was there. This is getting crazy.

Claude Giroux scored just 1:55 later for the Flyers on a nice Backhand Shelf move and all of a sudden the Flyers were up 2-0. The Rangers got a little too aggressive on the forecheck (4 Rangers in so 4-check?) resulting in a 2-on-1 and Giroux made a beautiful move on Lundqvist up over the blocker after getting the pass from Maxime Talbot. He tried a similar move earlier in the game but Lundqvist came out more than he expected and stopped it.

Just 30 seconds later, journeyman Mike Rupp got the New York Rangers on the board with a shot from the top of the circles that Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t get a good look at. Rupp used Philly defenseman Andrei Meszaros as a screen and saluted the crowd (moves like Jagr?) with his celly making it a 2-1 game.

Just 2:41 into the 3rd period, Mike Rupp tied the game at 2 with a quick, bad angle shot that snuck by Bobrovsky on the short side and Mike Rupp had his 2nd goal of the game and 3rd of the season. The last time Mike Rupp scored before this game was last year! Seriously though, it was on October 18th in the 4th game of the season in a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Where have you been Mike Rupp? I’m sure Bobrovsky would like to have that one back.

The New York Rangers had all the momentum now and scored 2:40 later when Brad Richards put in a rebound at the right side of the net. Dan Girardi, at the right half-wall, sent the puck around the boards to Ryan Callahan behind the net. Callahan was cut off by Meszaros so he made a short behind the back pass to the left of the net and Brandon Dubinsky got a couple quick shots off. The second shot rebounded right to Richards for the go-ahead goal. The Rangers now led 3-2 with 14:39 left in regulation.

The Flyers made a push to tie the game and got very close even getting a penalty shot when Ryan McDonagh was called for covering the puck in the crease with 20 seconds left in the 3rd period. Danny Briere was chosen by coach Peter Laviolette to take the shot. Briere came in and tried to go 5-hole but Henrik “Hank” Lundqvist made the save of the game.

It was a great game featuring two rival teams who played very physical (a Winter Classic record 91 hits proved that) and intense hockey to a sold out Citizens Bank Park crowd of 46,967.

Conclusion
The NHL Winter Classic has become the National Hockey League’s Super Bowl – a marquee event for everyone to get together to watch on New Year’s Day (or later.) New commercials are made just to be seen on the Winter Classic and its just a great day overall. You get fans complaining about the site and the teams in the event when its announced but when it comes around, I think everyone enjoys the celebration of hockey that the Winter Classic has become over the last five years.

The last two Winter Classics have been chronicled by HBO with its 24/7 Road to the NHL Winter Classic documentary that goes on for 4 weeks, starting 3 weeks before and ending the week after the Winter Classic. What an amazing series that shows a real side of hockey that we’ve never really been able to see. You get to see how the players prepare for games, how they talk to each other, their opponents and the officials, how the coaches motivate the players, how hard the players work to rehab an injury and what the players do off the ice.

So now we have to wait months to find out where the next NHL Winter Classic will be. It sounds like Detroit is the favorite with Washington, New York and Minnesota also rumored to be in the conversation.

So how does the National Hockey League decide who gets to host the Winter Classic? What all goes into it? Well, it’s easy to see that there’s a few big factors that they want from the host. They want a great venue in a big market, marquee players and marquee teams and a good, healthy rivalry.

Let’s skip right to Minnesota as the other teams listed pretty much meet all factors of venue, great players, great teams and healthy rivalries.

Great venue?
Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium are both great venues. I’d lean towards Target Field because of location, beer sales and parking just off the top of my head.
Big market?
I would say Minnesota should be a big enough market. The NHL were very happy with the 2006 All-Star Game that was played at the Xcel Energy Center so they know the event would be done right.
Marquee players and marquee teams?
The Minnesota Wild are getting there with both of these but I still don’t think their up to that standard yet. I don’t think the rest of the NHL cities are too excited to watch the Wild right now. Their best player, Mikko Koivu, is not really talked about as one of the marquee players in the NHL. They have some players coming soon that should definitely help them in Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Jonas Brodin and others who are going to be helping the Wild soon.
Good, healthy rivalry?
This could be a problem. I would say the Minnesota Wild’s biggest rival right now is Vancouver or Colorado and you could maybe put Dallas in there for obvious reasons. The biggest problem is that a rivalry usually needs a lot of time to develop and the Wild is only in their 11th season so they haven’t really built up that much of a rivalry with anyone yet or at least a rivalry that the league sees as marketable. Now if we’re talking about realignment then I would probably say Chicago or Dallas.

It would be fun to see the Wild against Dallas with the Wild wearing old school Minneapolis Millers or Minnesota Fighting Saints jerseys or some other vintage Minnesota hockey team. Of course the best jersey they could don would be the old school North Stars jerseys. Ahhh….I can hear the “Norm Green SUCKS” chants right now.

I don’t see the Winter Classic getting to Minnesota until probably 2015 or so. The NHL will probably take care of all the Original Six teams and the bigger markets with bigger rivalries before they hit Minnesota.

Other Thoughts:

  • NHL Network replays the whole game and they air the Canadian broadcast as well as the American broadcast. I heard like 10 minutes of the Canadian broadcast and it was so much better than NBC Sports. Doc Emrick, Ed Olcyk and Pierre Maguire don’t come close to the Canadian broadcasters expertise at their jobs. They analyzed the game better and they seemed to have more (or maybe just better) cameras. Their NHL Network is better too. I don’t like that. I should be able to watch that broadcast live!
  • Football stadium or Baseball Stadium? Are the sight lines really that great for the whole stadium? It looks like fans would be better off sitting higher than lower. Also, it seems like it would be better to place the rink closer to one side of the park rather than in the center and then put up some seating on the actual field. It’s probably a pretty good guess that the stadiums don’t want to erect stands on their fields for fear of ruining the turf and needing to replace it.
  • Would they ever consider doing an All-Star game outside? That would be pretty interesting and very fun!
  • Can they do it in a warm climate? Florida applied to be a part of it. How would that work? It’s been done before in a warm climate as evidenced by an exhibition game in Las Vegas in ‘91.

Did you watch the 2012 NHL Winter Classic? Do you think Minnesota will host one soon? Is this article too long? Tell us what you think in the comments. 

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One thought on “NHL Winter Classic – A Celebration of Hockey

  1. Pingback: 2014 Hockey City Classic Notes-Gophers vs Buckeyes-1-17-2014 | ClutterPuck

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