Finally, Winter Classic is Officially Official
“On behalf of the NHL I am pleased to finally announce that on January 2nd at 1 pm the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will be played here, at Citizens Bank Park by the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers” Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters. “Hopefully it will be easier to put on […] then it was to put on this event.”
Commissioner Bettman was also able to confirm that the ancillary project “24/7” would be produced for a second consecutive season by HBO. Last year’s show gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the players lives leading up to the 2011 Winter Classic. When asked about the show head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters, “We just talked about it for the first time. Basically, it will be a little bit awkward but from what we hear it’s like a fly on the wall. You don’t notice it that much. I’m sure it will be a great show for hockey fans.”
The series will premiere December 14th.The Winter Classic has been a popular event with fans and a wonderful promotional tool for the league. Since its inception in 2008, the Classic has consistently had the highest television ratings of any regular season game and has put up similar numbers to the Stanley Cup Final.
It will be the second time in three seasons that Philadelphia will take part in the event with the first time coming on New Year's Day of 2010 when the Flyers traveled to legendary Fenway Park in Boston to challenge the Bruins. The game saw the first fight (between Dan Carcillo and Shawn Thornton) as well as the first overtime in Winter Classic history. The Bruins ended up winning the game 2-1 on a goal by Marco Sturm 1:57 into the overtime period. It was the first time in Winter Classic history that the home team won the game.
Although this will be the first time that the Rangers will have a chance to participate in the event, it won't be the first time that the organization will be involved in an historic outdoor game. On September 27th, 1991, the Rangers traveled to Las Vegas to play the Los Angeles Kings in the first ever outdoor game in league history. It was a pre-season game and was played in the parking lot of Caesar's Palace casino. Despite day time temperatures of 95 degrees and a night time temperature of 80 degrees the game went off without a hitch. The Kings defeated the Rangers, 5-2. The NHL hopes the weather on January 2nd will be a bit more atmospheric.
In addition to the Winter Classic, the Flyers and Phillies are interested in making it a weeklong event. Flyers and Comcast President Peter Luukko told reporters, “[We want to] start the New Year off the right way—the hockey way.” Mr. Luukko informed reporters that the organization had already scheduled a Rangers/Flyers alumni game for December 31st at 1 pm as well as an Adirondack Phantoms game against the Hershey Bears on January 6th. He also expressed a desire to hold a public skate as well as youth, high school and collegiate hockey games.
Both teams had the opportunity to display their new captains as Chris Pronger and Ryan Callahan could both be seen for the first time with the ‘C’ on their sweaters. James van Riemsdyk, Matt Carle and Scott Hartnell represented the Flyers and Marion Gaborik and newly acquired Brad Richards were present to represent the Rangers.
The most interesting moment came when the Rangers’ General Manager Glen Sather took the stand. Up to that point the event had been polite and political. Sather decided to go in a different direction. The GM went out of his way to agitate the collection of Flyers fans in attendance by proclaiming, “I Remember kicking the hell out of you on the way to two cups.” Flyers owner Ed Snider immediately jumped out of his chair and responded that “He [also] remembers beating the hell out of the Rangers on the way to his two cups.” He also added that Mr. Sather’s two cups didn’t come with the Rangers.