blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: An Instant Classic In the Second City

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An Instant Classic In the Second City

Last week the NHL staged it’s second Winter Classic in as many years showcasing Original Six siblings and Central Division rivals Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings - the league's youngest team and owner of the highest home attendance this season facing off against the defending Stanley Cup Champs laying claim to the eldest roster and highest road attendance figures. A safe ratings play to be sure.

Shifting the location to Wrigley Field offered an intimate and historically rich alternative to Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But beyond the awesome setting, several small touches distinguished the event: scheduling the game on the back-end of a home-and-home series ensured a playoff intensity rather than that of an exhibition affair, singing both anthems despite the absence of a Canadian team (though two-thirds of Chicago’s lineup were born north of the border), the exposed brick facade on the outside of the boards, the coaches old-time cowboy hats, the pair of fighter jets that buzzed the ballpark, transitioning the title sponsor from Super Dew to Bridgestone, the Costas factor, and the handshakes at the end of the game all classed-up the cause.

A 2.9 television rating in the United States for this year’s game has all but cemented the Winter Classic as an annual affair. With fans flocking to the event, owners are lining up to get a piece of the action. Suitors include the Flyers (Beaver Stadium), Rangers (Yankee Stadium), Bruins (Fenway), Wild (TCF Bank Stadium), and Avalanche (Investco Field)

While gate receipts are a nice boost to annual revenues, the NHL should select its next location with an eye towards developing a U.S. television audience and leveraging a lucrative and comprehensive television contract with a broadcast network.

The goal should be to secure a unique space where no professional sports team has played, a venue of first impression. Can you imagine watching the Rangers and Islanders playing on Central Park's Great Lawn or the Capitals and Penguins skating on the National Mall?

At the very least, let's hope these iconic options are explored before the league stages a Battle of Florida at Disney World.


The Hoon said...

Kings v Ducks - Rose Bowl
Avs v Wings - Mile High
Coyotes - Stars - Grand Canyon