It's not often you can pair hockey and Liberace. But the man once said..."Too much of a good thing is wonderful".
As is the case with the NHL's outdoor games.
Outdoor hockey games are under attack, as the latest edition, the Minnesota Wild's 6-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium last Sunday, drew less than desirable ratings on NBC. With another game set for tonight, as Coors Field plays host to a tilt between the Avalanche and Red Wings, some have wondered whether the appeal of outdoor hockey has gone the way of the two-line pass and the GloPuck.
However, outdoor hockey still has a place in our sport and still has a tradition that can't be matched.
The premiere outdoor event, the Winter Classic on New Year's Day, is the NHL's answer to basketball on Christmas and Football on Thanksgiving. It's a time to showcase the NHL's best, its rising stars, its established heroes. "But," you say "It's the same thing every year! The appeal is over!" Really? Then I guess you don't watch the Lions and Lakers get blown out on their respective holidays every year. Can you explain to me how that's any different?
Outdoor hockey is how many of these guys were introduced to the sport. For many youngsters, the first time they hit the ice was on a frozen pond in a woodsy setting stolen from the set of The Revenant. We're going to deny that? We're going to take that away?
Outdoor game also utilize a new attraction...alumni games. To celebrate this week's matchup between the Wings and Avs, one of the NHL's most intense rivalries of its glorious 90's period, several players who partook in those games return to don their sweaters one more time. Fortunately, no goalies were harmed in the making of the spectacle, but to see legends of the game back in action, looking as if they hadn't lost a step was truly incredible. This is a world where in 2016, we can see Steve Yzerman fire a shot against Patrick Roy....and we're going to have the audacity to complain about that?
Like anything in sports, outdoor hockey isn't perfect. Even I'll admit its somewhat silly when Southern California is hosting these games. But when the NHL, a league notorious for its imperfect track record, does it right, it's absolutely magical. We shouldn't hate the outdoor games, we shouldn't beg them to go away. Watching these games, with snow swirling,teeth chattering, the stands with more "smoke" than a cigarette factory, this is what old time hockey is all about. And we should embrace that wholeheartedly...and not just to keep warm.
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