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The Statesman

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The Statesman

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    NHL Winter Classic A Huge Success

    Three hours and 11 minutes after the puck was first dropped, NHL poster boy Sidney Crosby stood at center ice in front of 71,217 screaming fans.

    He skated in towards Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, picking the puck up off the blue line. As he got closer to the goalie he put together a couple of quick dekes. Miller reached out with his stick in an attempt to poke check the puck away, but Crosby eluded him and slid the puck through the legs of the vulnerable goaltender to win the game for his team. Despite the frigid temperatures and snow blowing directly into his face, Crosby’s face lit up, and as the 20-year-old prodigy celebrated joyously with his teammates, you knew you just witnessed a special moment.

    ‘In an atmosphere like this, I think anyone, even just the average fan watching, has to be interested in something like that,’ said Crosby, according to Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe. ‘I think the game did a good job of bringing attention [to the sport].’

    If you had asked NHL or NBC executives before the game how they hoped to see it end, a Crosby shootout winner would have been tops on the list. The game clicked on a television level as well. According to William Houston of The Globe and Mail in Canada, the telecast ‘earned an overnight rating of 2.6 (percentage of potential TV households tuned in) and a 5 share (percentage of televisions in use watching the telecast).’ It was the highest rated NHL game on NBC in over ten years.

    While the game obviously drew the casual fan to hockey, which is a huge issue currently affecting the state of the game, the die hards had to suffer just a little bit. Those 70,000+ who sat in the cold had to sit through numerous delays to patch up the ice, and an intermission in the middle of each period to keep the team with the wind at their backs from having an advantage.

    ‘There’s a specialness about games played under less than ordinary circumstance,’ NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said on the Mike and the Mad Dog Radio show Jan. 25. ‘There were a handful of purists who said it diminished the skill level of the game, and there’s no arguing that by having a lot of snow on the ice puck handling was more difficult,’ he said.

    ‘It was tough on both teams to create things offensively,’ said Pittsburgh goalie Ty Conklin, according to the Boston Globe. ‘But really, I don’t think you can call it anything but a huge success.’

    ‘It was a lot of fun,’ Bettman also said. ‘What was amazing as the visuals demonstrated, 72,000+ at a hockey game outdoors, it was snowing, and everybody was on their feet for the entire game. It was really a great event.’

    ‘We’re not going to over do it,’ Bettman said concerning the future of outdoor NHL games. ‘You need to keep it special, but we’re looking at lots and lots of alternatives, because there are now lots of places and lots of teams that are interested in doing it. We’ve been approached to consider doing it at the Big House in Michigan’hellip;at Penn State with Pittsburgh and the Flyers. There’s been some talk that we should be the last event at Yankee Stadium, but I’m not sure how baseball purists would feel about that,’ he said.

    ‘None of these are a reality yet, we don’t need headlines, it’s just everybody’s coming at us with different possibilities,’ Bettman said.

    With the game packing out a stadium at least three times bigger than any regular NHL venue, and the game drawing the highest hockey rating for NBC in ten years, you can be sure there will be more of these so called ‘Winter Classics.

    ‘It may not have been the best hockey game, because of the weather, because of the snow,’ Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff told the Globe. ‘But the atmosphere was incredible … and to hell with the cynics.’

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