Monday, October 29, 2012

NHL Fire in Lieu of the Lockout, Round 5: The Winter Classics

By Danny Klau (@UptownDKlau)

Kill the Game (KTG) - The act of destroying  all competition in any given field, raising the standard of perfection. Synonyms: Murder the Game, Man on Fire, Murderous Bro, Game Killing.

Gary Bettman is Killing the Game right now. Almost to the exact definition provided by Oxford English Dictionary. Destroying All Competition. Murderous. Game Killing. He is disrupting the world to achieve his objective. These are all almost exclusively positive accolades donned upon the most heroic of Broz throughout Sportzland. But we hear at Sportz Broz generally forget our religious upbringings for the sake of popular/counter-cultural sportz journalizm. Gary Bettman seems to have forgotten too. Do we remember the Ten Commandments? The First one? The one that says: "Thou Shalt Not Kill?"

With the announcement coming last week saying that it "looks like an 82-game season is not going to be a reality," Bettman began inserting the dagger into the proverbial hearts of hockey fans across the world. Thus begins the slow death of our season. Up Next, our beloved Winter Classic - From Bettman:

''I'm not going to give you an exact timetable, but at some point in November we will have to commit many millions of dollars to get ready for the Winter Classic. So if there's still uncertainty, we're going to have to make a decision,'' Bettman said. ''My guess is we're not going to commit those dollars unless we have certainty.''

Though the game is only worth two points in the standings, the outdoor game has been the NHL's most successful foray into mainstream America in recent years. The casual Sportz fan watches the game and becomes entrapped in the story-lines after watching four weeks of HBO's 24/7. New Year's Day belongs to hockey thanks to it, so it's only fitting that in his quest to Kill The Game, Bettman would pinpoint the Winter Classic.

Please bear in mind that it is this author's opinion that both the League, and the Player's Association share equal blame in this current CBA standstill. But Gary Bettman must be criticized for his entire body of work, this being the 3rd work stoppage under his tenure as commissioner of the league. It is with that in mind that we present: NHL Fire In Lieu Of The Lockout, Round 5: The Winter Classics.

The "Winter Classic" became an official annual event in 2008, so it's there where we will begin, backtracking each year up until what would have been 2013:

2008 - Pittsburgh Penguins @ Buffalo Sabres, Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY

The Winter Classic started with a banger in Buffalo - drawing an NHL record attendance of 71,000. It had all the makings of an outdoor classic with snow falling during much of the play. It was a true spectacle of the sport.

Colby Armstrong gave The Penguins the lead right off the bat, putting home a loose puck just 21 seconds into the game. Buffalo would pour it on from there on out, finally tying the game with a Brian Campbell wrist shot early in the second. Overtime would not alleviate the stalemate, resulting in a shootout - a dream result for the league. Sure enough, the shootout would come down to the classic match up of Sidney Crosby vs. Ryan Miller. The NHL's golden boy would prevail giving Pittsburgh the win, and momentum for the league to build on for a recurring series in 2009.

2009 - Detroit Red Wings @ Chicago Blackhawks - Wrigley Field, Chicago Illinois

Wrigley Field would provide the perfect setting for the 2009 affair between two Original 6 teams. The game would be a see-saw affair with Chicago taking a 3-1 lead after the first. Detroit's Jiri Hudler would tie it up with two goals in the second, with Pavel Datsyuk giving the Red Wings the lead. Two more Detroit goals gave them five unanswered. They would hold on to win 6-4.

2010 - Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins - Fenway Park, Boston Massachusetts

A Baseball Stadium would provide the venue for the second year in a row, hosting the hockey teams from two passionate sports cities. The game saw a couple of firsts, including the first fighting major in a Winter Classic when heavyweights Dan Carcillo and Shawn Thornton traded hay-makers.

Philadelphia rookie Danny Syvret would also score his first NHL goal in the game, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead early in the second. Mark Recchi would tie the game late on a PP goal for Boston that would force Overtime.  The Extra session would only last 1:57 as Marco Sturm would tip a Patrice Bergeron pass behind Philadelphia net-minder Michael Leighton to win it for the Bruins.

2011 - Washington Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins - Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

The 2011 Classic brought about a marquee match up between the NHL's two brightest stars, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in front of 68,000 packed into the home of the Steelers. The game would be remembered less for the outcome and more for the aftermath of a blindside hit placed on Crosby by Washington's David Steckel. Crosby is still feeling the after effects, having yet to permanently return to the Pittsburgh lineup. The game itself however, would live up to its classic billing - although it wasn't the star power providing the show. After Evgeni Malkin opened the scoring in the second period on a breakaway goal, Mike Knuble would equalize for the Caps on the Power Play. They would take the lead when Eric Fehr took advantage of a Marc-Andre Fleury puck-control error later in the second. Fehr would later ice the game in the third, beating Fleury on a breakaway.

2012 - New York Rangers @ Philadelphia Flyers - Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

The State of Pennsylvania would play host to a second consecutive Winter Classic, the 2012 edition being held in Philadelphia. There has never been any love-lost between these two division rivals and the aura of the Winter Classic did not provide any exception.  After a scoreless first period, the Flyers would quickly jump out to a 2-0 lead after goals from Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux. The Rangers would get back into the game from an unlikely source. Enforcer Mike Rupp would slide a wrist-shot passed Sergei Bobrovsky. He would celebrate the goal by giving the "Jagr Salute" to the Philly faithful - a move that did not go over well with the Flyers skaters.

As surprising as the Rangers' first goal was, their next was impossible. Nut sure enough, Mike Rupp would tie the game early in the third, beating Bobrovsky from a bad angle. The comeback was completed when Brad Richards banged home a rebound from a Brandon Dubinksy shot. The Rangers were not home and dry just yet. The Flyers were awarded a penalty shot with just 19 seconds remaining after Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was deemed to have covered the puck in the crease.  Danny Briere would take the shot for Philadelphia, but was denied as he tried to go through the legs of Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers would go on to win the game, and would eventually beat the Flyers in all six meetings of that season.

2013 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Detroit Red Wings - Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor Michigan

This game, though not officially announced, will not take place. Gary Bettman has Killed the Game. The Big House had previously hosted the largest attendance ever to witness a live hockey game, when Michigan played Michigan State in front of over 104,000 people. The attendance for this year's Winter Classic was expected to eclipse that. But alas, it will not happen. In an effort to "fairly" distribute their record revenues, the NHL eliminated revenue altogether. On New Years Day, 2013, Hockey fans will have to spend their respective hangovers watching two 8-5 college football teams duke it out in some corporate-sponsored bowl game, a game in which the participants will receive 0% of the revenues, mind you.

Ahh what could have been!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, bro. Awesome videos. I completely forgot this goes down on New Year's Day every notch stuff brah