Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Aftermath of the Ice Bowl

One day removed from the Winter Classic the event is being remembered as a stunning success despite the Sabres loss. Everything indicates that the NHL will try to do another outdoor game next year as well.

The official attendance mark was slightly over 71,000. While this is slightly less then the 75,000 that saw the Cold War game, it is a record for a NHL game beating out the previous attendance mark at the 2003 heritage classic outdoor game. Additionally around 12,000 fans were at the HSBC arena for the "House Party". While the house party held no appeal to me, the fact that so many people were willing to attend is a testament to how big of an even this was.

On another note, wearing the classic jerseys was rather cool. While I understand that the Penguins want to wear yellow and black to match the other two teams in the city, there is no reason for the Sabres not to return to their classic jerseys. Since returning to the Blue and Gold last season the team has teased us with wearing the classic blues for half the home games last season, and now with wearing the whites for this outdoor game. The team and the NHL just need to admit their mistake and go back to the classic logos. It is going to happen sooner or later, and there is really no reason to put it off any longer.

The game itself played out really slow, as the snow slowed the puck itself, and elongated timeouts were needed to repair the ice surface. However, it was well known is advance that this was likely to happen. This was probably most helpful to the Penguins who as a result could give more ice time to their top line of Crosby, Armstrong, and Malkin. That said it wasn't a bad hockey game and had a better pace then most Devils game, and the mind numbing stillness that result from the Wild playing New Jersey in the snow.

Another touch the NHL really needed to pull off was an ice pathway from the locker room to the rink. Ignoring how far the teams had to walkout on those stupid rubber mats, how cool would it have been to have the players charge out of the tunnel on skates?

Also why the NHL didn't have the zambonis completely redo the ice surface when they went out there mid period to scrape off the snow is beyond me. It's not how things are typically done, but as the league showed with splitting the third period, special circumstances should lead themselves to reasonable changes.

Splitting the overtime seemed a bit obsessive, but ultimately it was the only way to be fair. Thanks to a powerplay the Sabres outshot Pittsburgh 7-0 in the OT, but failed to score anything. Perhaps outdoor games should proceed straight to a shootout?

Props to NBC for covering the game fairly. While I would have rather listened to Jeanneret or CBC's feed, the announcers didn't feel compelled to explain the rules of the game as if no one has ever seen hockey before. Traditionally network television has always carried hockey games as if they needed to explain what a faceoff is. That didn't prevent them from talking about Crosby ad infinum, but that was almost expected from the moment the game was first announced. The only thing that bothered me was that they kept showing that play of Crosby bouncing the puck off his stick a couple of times as if it were some great play, failing to realize that he was immediately bumped off the puck, giving Buffalo's defense easy possession.

More about the future of the Ice Bowl tomorrow...

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