With the news about the cancellation of the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic breaking, hockey fans are struggling to have hope of whether or not there will be a 2012-2013 NHL season. Yes the cancellation of the entire season is the biggest fear, but the fear of the Winter Classic never reaching its full potential should be another alarming fear for the NHL.
The Winter Classic became an annual event for the NHL beginning in 2008, beginning in Ralph Wilson Stadium with an attendance of 71,217. In that game the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout 2-1.
Wrigley Field and the Chicago Blackhawks held host to the second annual Winter Classic again the Detroit Red Wings. This game was close, but it was not low scoring. In fact, the final score looked like a score between the MLB‘s Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers. The Red Wings edged the Blackhawks by a final score of 6-4 in front of 40,818 spectators.
The third Winter Classic featured the Philadelphia Flyers heading into Fenway Park to face the Boston Bruins. In front of a packed stadium, the Bruins edged out the Flyers in overtime. In 2011 the Penguins were able to play in their second Winter Classic, but this time they held host to the Washington Capitals in Heinz Field (home of the NFL‘s Pittsburgh Steelers).
All of the previous Winter Classic games were unbelievable and special in their own way. But last season, the city of Philadelphia was able to witness one of the best Winter Classic’s in its history. Flyers’ chairman, Ed Snider, turned what used to be a one day event into a week long celebration for one of the best sports in the world.
Snider and the Flyers’ organization set the bar high for future Winter Classics with this week long tribute.
The first event that was held was a rematch of a 2010 game held between the Philadelphia Police Department Ice Hockey Club and the Boston Police Emerald Society. The next day’s event was the highly anticipated, especially in the city of Philadelphia, alumni game featuring some of the greatest Flyers’ and New York Rangers‘ players in their franchise’s histories. The Winter Classic was then held on January 2nd (game was pushed back because of an NFL game as well as the New Year’s Day Parade in Philadelphia).
That week also featured two collegiate hockey games. One game, which was held on January 4th, featured the Neumann University Knights faced off against Penn State. The other, which was held the following day, featured Drexel University and Villanova University.
The final event held during the week long tribute was the return of the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, Adirondack Phantoms, against the Hershey Bears. This game marked the highest attendance ever in AHL history with a record attendance of 45,653 people.
All in all, Snider is not only a key contributor to the NHL, which is why he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he also was a key component to raising the bar for the Winter Classic. With a cancellation of this years Winter Classic, the NHL needs to be worried that its Winter Classic might not reach its full potential or even back to the level that it was at last year.
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