When the news broke out earlier this year that Capitals/Penguins would be the matchup for the 2011 Winter Classic, there were mixed feelings from hockey fans all around. Many thought the NHL didn’t need this game at the Winter Classic to drive up the ratings. Plus, many of those same people were outraged at the fact that this will be Pittsburgh’s second appearance (in four years, no less).
All of that aside, this is destined to be a great event in Pittsburgh next weekend. Why? Well there are numerous factors as to why this will be the ‘perfect matchup’ for this spectacle:
- Five years from now, this event may become stale (for some, it’s already reaching that point). We are getting this rivalry in its prime while the Winter Classic is still somewhat new and exciting.
- This will just be another chapter in this Washington/Pittsburgh rivalry. Before their epic meeting in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the two met in seven different playoff series – all between 1991 and 2001 – including a six-year stretch where they faced off five times.
- There has only been one playoff series between the two since Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin arrived, which means the best is yet to come in the next handful of years. (To make a baseball reference, the majority of baseball fans would be sick of the Red Sox and Yankees playing on a similar stage).
- Crosby vs. Ovechkin may be over-hyped as a player-vs.-player matchup; but you have to admit, every time they play it is great theatre. There have been some classic contests since they broke into the league in 2005-06. The Winter Classic will be their 26th head-to-head meeting.
- This rivalry isn’t all about Crosby and Ovechkin. Between Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Mike Green; along with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, there is plenty of star power to go around.
- Heinz Field is a great backdrop for the Winter Classic. On the banks of the Three Rivers and clad in gold, it is one of the more recognizable football stadiums in North America, home to one of the more recognizable sports franchises in the world. This event is better suited for a football stadium, and the NHL picked a great venue.
- To put the cherry on top, HBO’s series ‘24/7: Road to the Winter Classic’ has already been a huge hit with hockey fans. Its unprecedented behind the scenes, all-access coverage is unbelievable theatre! With a new episode every week, it will only build up hype for the game.
These are all reasons why this year’s Winter Classic may be the best one yet. Look for daily posts on this premier event every day leading up to New Year’s!
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.