It was a game for the record books: the first regular-season NHL game ever played outdoors. It was an attendance record for an NHL game at 71,217 (381.0% of capacity at Ralph Wilson Stadium). And, it was the first outdoor NHL game ever played in the US. Add in that it will most certainly be the most highly watched NHL game on television in recent memory when the Nielsen ratings are released, and all in all it was a rousing success for the NHL.
But, that wasnâ€™t all that made for a memorable script.
It was a game that saw a steady stream of snow, fans in the lower bowl of Ralph Wilson Stadium standing for the duration of the game, and the game winning goal coming on a shootout by Sidney Crosby.
In a word, it was almost a nearly perfect game.
Were there issues with playing outdoors? Certainly. One of the Zambonis froze up, extending the time at the 10 min. mark of the 3rd period when the ice was being resurfaced. There was an issue with one area of the rink having to be maintained throughout the game due to placing the rink on the football field surface. All of that played out as a minor annoyance rather than the focus to what will be one of the most memorable games in NHL history. As reported by The AP:
With the success of this event, it seems likely the NHL would seek to host more, perhaps even on an annual basis.
"When you see 70,000 people packed into a stadium to watch hockey, that's usually a good sign," Crosby said.
The record crowd that topped the one in Edmonton four years earlier, cheered and took pictures as the conclusion approached. The camera flashes dotted the entire stadium as each of the six shooters came in on goal through lake-effect snow.
That game in Edmonton, played at Commonwealth Stadium between the Canadiens and Oilers, was deemed the Heritage Classic and played on Nov. 22, 2003 saw a total attendance of 57,167. The game has been remembered more for the incredible coldness of the day than anything as temperatures reached as low as -28C. The highlight of that game may have been Jose Theodoreâ€™s use of a toque to stave off the cold. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller wore three different versions of a toque during todayâ€™s Winter Classic (Miller will sell the toques and donate the proceeds to charity).
Below is a break down of team stat comparison for the Winter Classic.
|Team Stat Comparison|
| || || |
|104 || |
|110 || |
|34 || |
Power Play Goals
|35 || |
Power Play Goals Allowed
|3 || |
|3 || |
Shorthanded Goals Allowed
|571 || |
|15 || |
Average Penalty Minutes
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football ,The Biz of Basketball, and The Biz of Hockey. He is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus, Basketball Prospectus and is an available writer for other media outlets.
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