"This is really kind of becoming a destination event for hockey fans, but also sports fans. We want to open it up to the masses."
-- John Collins, NHL Chief Operating Officer
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Not the best idea these guys have had
That was a statement offered to the press as the NHL revealed that it is considering a number of, shall we say... "untraditional" venues for the annual Winter Classic, among them: Los Angeles (Rose Bowl), Las Vegas, and even our own Washington, D.C. (average January high temperature, 42 degrees Fahrenheit).
It is the NHL's thought that cities should compete for the Classic just as Super Bowl cities do.
Hey, you know what? I'll bet Lambeau Field would like to host a Super Bowl. But it doesn't and won't ever do so. Why? Well, you could argue that sponsors won't want to go to a small town in Wisconsin (not a lot to do compared to, say, Miami), but it's also that it's freakin' cold outside! The weather doesn't work. The only times the NFL has decided to hold Super Bowls in northern cities, it did so in domed stadiums, and it hasn't become a habit (three games in 42 years). Cities might compete for Super Bowls, but almost always those that win are cities where snow shovels aren't sold in hardware stores.
In case the folks at NHL headquarters have forgotten, hockey is generally played on ice. And there being enough complaints in some cities (certainly in...Washington) that the arena in which their hockey team plays is too warm, too often to provide a decent ice sheet, one doesn't think that a game... outdoors... in Las Vegas (average January high temperature 55 degrees Fahrenheit) is going to make for a better stage, whatever the state of the art of ice-making equipment.
And, the visuals would make for some neck-snapping head-shaking...players on the ice, fans in the stands potentially in sun glasses and shirt sleeves (remember, that 55 degrees is an average high temperature in Vegas in January). We'd wonder if Ryan Zimmerman was in the on-deck circle waiting to take a shift to replace Alex Ovechkin.
The fact that the NHL wants to open up this game to "the masses" (but only in the United States, apparently) aside, one of the charms of this event is it recalls days of youth gone by, but not forgotten, playing pond hockey. We're thinking there hasn't been a lot of pond hockey played in the Nevada desert over the years, or Southern California. And even though being a Caps fan, there is more of a little self-interested desire to see such an event here, we're doubting this is even much of a great idea for D.C. This might be the most powerful city on earth...it isn't the coldest.
This sun-belt experimentation with the sport has had something of an uneven success (to be charitable about it). Hockey is a cold-weather sport, and this event has added something of a winter charm to the television appeal of the sport. If you're going to play it outdoors, then do it justice. We already have one Gimmick in the NHL; let's not have another.It's a "winter" classic, after all.