John Steigerwald: Time for NHL to rein in outdoor games
OK, enough with the outdoor games.
Like so many other things, playing an NHL regular-season game in a football stadium was a good idea that has been beaten to death. Saturday in Philadelphia turned out to be an ugly night for the Penguins because of the final score and the injuries, but it also was an ugly night for the NHL and the sport.
Hockey’s not supposed to be played in the rain.
When the Penguins played the Sabres on Jan. 1, 2008, in Buffalo in the first Winter Classic, it seemed like a great idea, and the game was everything any hockey fan could have hoped for. (Has it really been 11 years?)
It snowed before and during the game.
More than 71,000 fans showed up.
It went to overtime, and Sidney Crosby, who was 20 years old, won it in a shootout.
Of course, it didn’t take long for somebody to decide there was no need to limit it to the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. We saw the proof of that Saturday night, when the Penguins lost to the Flyers in what’s known as a Stadium Series game. The first outdoor game was the Heritage Classic in 2003 in Edmonton between the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens.
More than 57,000 showed up.
It was 21 below zero. Hockey weather.
Getting people to come to the games hasn’t been a problem. The Maple Leafs and Red Wings drew 105,491 to Michigan Stadium on New Year’s Day 2014.
But you knew the concept was in danger of being beaten to death when somebody thought it was a good idea for the Kings to play the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
It didn’t snow.
All of the games draw well, but there’s just nothing special about them anymore, at least not for a North American TV audience.
So instead of overkilling a really good idea, let’s go back to one game a year Jan. 1. And how about we play it in places where, if there is precipitation, it’s going to be snow?
If one game on New Year’s Day isn’t enough, how about a festival in a Canadian city where hockey weather is guaranteed? Games Friday, Saturday and Sunday with six teams, including one game with the home team. Spice it up with some snowmobile races and Winter Olympic events during the day. Just no more games in California, Texas or in the rain.
The game Saturday night in Philadelphia was a spectacle, and the Flyers fans who sat in the rain had to be happy with the result, but they were cheated.
Nobody played Duck, Duck, Goose after the game.
It’s all the rage in Raleigh, N.C., now, where the Carolina Hurricanes play. After wins, the players have been putting on choreographed celebrations, and if you think that’s ridiculous, it’s probably only because you’re old.
Don Cherry, a Canadian institution who, at 85, is still co-hosting the most popular 10 minutes in Canadian TV every Saturday night between the first and second periods of “Hockey Night in Canada,” took a lot of heat for calling the Hurricanes “a bunch of jerks” last Saturday night. The Hurricanes had “Bunch of Jerks” T-shirts printed, and sales were brisk. The celebration that set Cherry off was an imitation of a walk-off home run that included a dramatic bat flip and a celebration at home plate.
That was bad enough.
After an earlier win, all the players went to center ice and played a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. If you think that’s embarrassing, then there’s something wrong with you.
Or you could be old.
Imagine what Gordie Howe’s reaction would have been if, after a Red Wings win in Detroit, a PR guy had approached him and asked if he’d mind getting the guys to play a game of Duck, Duck Goose at center ice.
The PR guy would have been spitting chiclets.
John Steigerwald is a freelance writer.