Should we still call the Winter Classic a national event?
Some thoughts on the NHL's outdoor games and defining what they really are.
Normally this column would be written on Jan. 1 or Jan. 2, when the Winter Classic is fresh in mind and still imprinted in your collective memory.
If anything, I should have punted on this idea completely.
But this thought has been gnawing at me for a couple days, so I figured it was at least worth putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to discuss the Winter Classic and NHL outdoor games.
NHL outdoor games aren’t national events.
I say this with as much love as possible, because I love outdoor games and outdoor hockey. I’m in the process of building a rink in my backyard as we speak, and have been to multiple outdoor games — in fact, I believe we could use even more of them.
But calling these outdoor spectacles national events, or “tentpole events” to use internal NHL jargon, is fallacy in our current age of sports and media consumption.
There have now been 39 NHL-staged outdoor games, with games 40 and 41 scheduled for later this season. Of those 39 games, 31 have been played since January 2014, when the NHL introduced the Stadium Series.
NHL outdoor games were never about quality, the games themselves often fail to live up to the build-up — let’s face it, indoor ice leads to faster and better hockey — but quantity and novelty made these outdoor games worthwhile from an outside TV viewer’s perspective, it was one of the few things that cut through one of the NHL’s largest TV problems.