It's the best time of year!
With tomorrow’s Heritage Classic on the slate, some fans – most notably north of the border – are hoping that it eventually becomes an annual event. Should it, though? Patrick and I debate whether the league should continue to have two outdoor games in a season (or more), or if they should just stick with one.
More outdoor events good for the game
By Patrick Hoffman
Every knowledgeable hockey pundit and fan knows that the sport is nowhere near as popular in the U.S. as baseball, football, or even basketball.
With that said, however, one thing that separates the NHL from other professional leagues is the fact that it annually holds an outdoor game. The event brings the sport back to its roots and shows people what a great game hockey truly is.
With that in mind, I am of the opinion that the NHL needs to hold more than just one outdoor game each season. I know, I know… some of you think that one is probably enough, but I honestly believe the sport could do at least two more.
Obviously, the league would keep the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. It has proven to be a success since they started it back in 2008 and seems to get better each and every year.
The second game could be the Heritage Classic. Tomorrow in Calgary, the Flames will take on the Canadiens at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. The Oilers and Canadiens were involved in the first Heritage Classic back in November of 2003 and that was also a huge success.
Another outdoor event the NHL could hold could be for either Hockey Weekend in America or Hockey Day in Canada. What better way to celebrate the sport than to bring it back to its roots, where many players develop their interest and passion for the sport.
These outdoor events are great for ratings and great for exposure of the sport to casual fans, which is what hockey needs more of. For example, someone who normally would not watch hockey probably tuned in for a little bit of the Winter Classic this season between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, especially with it being in primetime.
I know that many of you may not agree with me but there is no doubting that an NHL outdoor event is good for the game of hockey. Just think about what one or two more of these events can do for our great sport.
NHL shouldn’t overexert the outdoor games
By Ryan Porth
Does anyone know what’s going in Calgary this weekend? A rodeo? The stampede? A good ol’ Flames game at the Saddledome? Wait… the Heritage Classic is tomorrow?
The hype for this great event – on a national level – has flown under the radar. And who knows how much talk there would be if the Flames hadn’t saved their season a month ago.
Maybe it’s because this event doesn’t have HBO’s 24/7 buildup the way the Winter Classic did. Maybe it’s because two heated rivals and uber-skilled teams like Pittsburgh and Washington aren’t facing off. Or maybe it’s because this is the second outdoor game of the season, and it is taking place less than two months after the first one.
Let’s face it – the Winter Classic has become so big and popular on a national stage that it has overshadowed Sunday’s game in Calgary. I’m sure if this was the only outdoor game of the season, there would be more buildup and anticipation. But it’s not. The Winter Classic has turned into hockey’s version of the Super Bowl, especially after the latest one in Pittsburgh.
Looking forward, I don’t know of a good way for the league to do this if they want to keep the spectacle fresh. Fans north of the border obviously want their own outdoor game (rightfully so) since the NHL likely won’t be making a Canadian city the host of the Winter Classic anytime soon. Those same Canadians (and the six teams) will be making a push to make the Heritage Classic an annual event.
The league has actually generated more sponsors for the Heritage Classic than they did for the Winter Classic; and I’m sure CBC will have record ratings for the game across Canada.
With that being said, if the NHL were to make both the Heritage and Winter Classic annual events, it’d be a mistake in my opinion. If one outdoor game becomes two every year, then it may become a watered down product. It could take away some of the aura and mystique of the NHL taking its game outdoors.
While I’m a big fan of the league going back to its roots (like Patrick mentioned) and excited for Sunday’s game in Calgary, I’m not so sure that holding two or more outdoor games every year is the best idea for the NHL.
What do you think the NHL should do in the future about outdoor games?
Photo credit: Getty Images
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