I’ve just finished watching the first period of the NHL Winter Classic, being played outside at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo and pitting the Buffalo Sabers against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s the first NHL game to be played outside in the United States. The NHL has been outside only one other time, four years ago in Edmonton when the Oilers took on the Montreal Canadiens.
To watch the beginning of the Classic today made me vibrate with emotion. Outdoor hockey, 70,000 people in attendance and snow falling (snow fell through most of the first period in fact). To hear the players talk about it during the pre-game, you could tell they were excited to really get back to their childhood—playing outside on a pond in the middle of winter.
It was unlike any NHL hockey I have ever seen. Not only the scope of the venue and the people, but watching these talented NHL’ers deal with the snowfall. Midway through the first, they had to stop the game to run the Zambonis to clear off the snow that had accumulated (according to the NBC announcers it was more than 1/2 inch).
I hope this becomes a regular part of the NHL season and that it happens somewhere near NYC sometime because I would love to see an outside game in person.
I’ve only been able to play outside a couple of times, and it was really awesome. It was great to see the pros do it, I suspect they had as much fun playing as I have had watching. I’m off to the second period now (hoping the Penguins keep their lead!).