What an epic day! New Year’s Day once again hosted the NHL’s Winter Classic. The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs played at the Big House on the Campus of the University of Michigan in front of a crowd of 105,491 people. The fans braved temperatures of 12 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills that plunged in to negative numbers. The game had to be stopped on several occasions to clear the ice of snow. The referees had to battle frozen whistles, goalies had iced-over water bottles, and benches had to be heated, but nobody cared. They had hockey, glorious, old-time pond hockey! Every little kid on a backyard rink, frozen lake, or neighborhood pond has dreamt of a game like this. The NBA plays host to several games on Christmas day, but the NHL owns New Year’s Day with one amazing Classic.
The game lived up to its billing as a Classic. It was played in an absolutely wonderful, historic venue, there was a wonderful tribute to both the Canadian and US national flags, the crowd was roaring, and the weather was perfect for hockey. The play was a battle from the first drop of the puck. In the end, the teams skated to a 2-2 tie in regulation, and the sudden-death OT period was scoreless. A decisive skills competition, a shootout, was required to determine the winner. A scoring shot off the post by Detroit was followed by a 5-hole snipe and a blasted slap shot to win the game for Toronto.
What could possibly make this game any better? How about the announcement of the US Olympic hockey rosters for the men and the women? Absolutely! In a final tribute to the day, both of the teams were unveiled with a special presentation to the crowd and the nation. We are 36 short days away from the start of the Sochi, RU, Olympics. These teams will now carry the hopes of a nation forward. T.J. Oshie, a native Washingtonian, will be closely watched by all of us in the hockey community as he goes for gold.
It’s hard to imagine that games like today can be duplicated, but the NHL is betting on the emotion and high level of play that comes out of a game like this. The Winter Classic is just the first of six outdoor games scheduled this year as part of the NHL Stadium Series. If the Stadium Series is successful, is it too far-fetched to think that in January of 2017 we might see a Metropolitan Classic? A January game held at CenturyLink Field between our new, beloved Seattle NHL franchise against the Vancouver Canucks in throw-back sweaters would be AMAZING! A kick-off to hockey in our city while celebrating our past as Stanley Cup winners could cement hockey as a staple in Seattle for decades to come. 2014 is a time to believe and dream big, Seattle! Let’s make it happen. #NHLSeattle