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SBD/January 3, 2011/Events and AttractionsPrint All
The Capitals-Penguins Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, "forced under the lights for the first time because of earlier rain, made the very most of the Heinz Field stage on a soggy Saturday," according to Dejan Kovacevic of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. There was "an Olympics-like opening ceremony, fireworks shot off the stadium rooftops, some 20-foot-tall flames flanking the parade of players, a deafening-at-times din from the crowd of 68,111 [and] a dazzling if eclectic array of Terrible Towels waving over tassle caps." The opening faceoff was moved from 1:00pm ET to 8:00pm due to weather concerns, but "all concerned seemed to agree that the move to prime time ... paid off in ways that might prove more memorable than the outcome." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "It was a tremendous game, and the scene was spectacular. Somebody on one of the clubs was telling me that, as they approached the stadium and saw the lights on, they got chills down their spine, that it was one of the most amazing things they'd been associated with in hockey." Penguins C Sidney Crosby: "It's an amazing feeling. It's pretty easy to see why those guys get so pumped up coming out of the tunnel every weekend. Anytime you have that many people, it's something you dream of doing." Penguins LW Max Talbot: "It was pretty cool to have it at night, with all the lights." Kovacevic wrote, "Perhaps the most noteworthy victory was that the game was played at all, given what went into maintaining a sheet of ice after heavy rain Saturday morning, as well as temperatures that peaked at 55 degrees and stayed at 52 for the 8:12 p.m. opening faceoff." The ice surface "failed to fully solidify for the game, as large puddles brought sluggish skating and sloppy puck movement." Bettman said that he "remained in touch" with NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and on-ice officials during the third period, but that he "heard no pleas for a delay" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/2).
Crews Removed More Than 3,000 Gallons Of
Water From Rink Due To Rain Saturday
SLIPPERY WHEN WET: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly wrote, "The ice surface was a bush-league mess. Pucks were skipping away or stopping dead. During TV timeouts, crews rushed out to shave the slush off the surface." Late in the first period, Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "swooped in on a dropped pass, raised his stick over his shoulder, hit a rut and nearly rode his own face into the Pittsburgh goal" (TORONTO STAR, 1/2). The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor wrote the ice "seemed to glisten with too much water at first, then looked greasy as the game went on" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 1/2). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote Craig may have been the "hero." The ice was "awful for warmups," as there was "so much standing water, the players left wakes when they skated." But it "did get better -- at least for a while" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/2). In DC, Tracee Hamilton wrote under the header, "Winter Classic Turned Into A Showcase On Slush." Hamilton: "If you're going to stage an outdoor hockey game you'd better hold it somewhere with some guaranteed ice and snow. ... The NHL did yeoman's work in producing a playable surface at all, but players sometimes seemed to be skating through water" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/2).
MEMORABLE NIGHT: In Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey wrote, "Saturday night's Winter Classic was the most spectacular sporting event I have witnessed in nearly a quarter century of witnessing sporting events for a living. And I'm just talking about the pre-game." The change in start time was a "blessing, because an outdoor event always feels bigger at night." The skyline "lit up in all its glory, providing a magnificent backdrop for Heinz Field." Starkey: "It was impossible to tell what there were more of -- flash bulbs, Terrible Towels or goose bumps" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/2). Also in Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi wrote the "real winners were hockey's fiercely loyal fans in Pittsburgh and across the United States." Penguins GM Ray Shero: "All we used to think of on New Year's Day were bowl games. Now it's the Classic, whether it's at 1 p.m. or 8 p.m. -- and this is a great opportunity for the league. Playing it at night, when you think about it, (made) the Classic literally take on a different light" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/2). Capitals RW Eric Fehr: "The first time we came out for the first period there, the fans were loud. It was everything you kind of dreamed of. It was perfect -- the darkness with the lights. It was great." Ovechkin: "It was one of the best feelings in my life" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 1/2). Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis: "It felt big time, right? It felt like a NFL Monday night playoff game or something like that" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 1/2).
BIG-TIME BUZZ: In Pittsburgh, Bob Cohn wrote, "Not only did the foul weather that pushed the Winter Classic back ... fail to dampen many spirits, the nighttime setting seemed to have elevated the mood, creating even more of a big-event buzz." Parking lots around Heinz Field "opened at 2:45 p.m., about 5 1/2 hours before the puck dropped," and "when the doors opened at 5:30, a loud cheer erupted from the crush outside the south end zone" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/2). The TORONTO STAR's Kelly wrote there was a "throbbing tailgate going on pre-game," and visitors "had to start pressing hard against backs to get through the herd a full three blocks from the stadium" (TORONTO STAR, 1/2). YAHOO SPORTS' Sean Leahy wrote there was an "air of excitement and anticipation outside of Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon in the hours leading up" to the game. There was a "buzz about the game everywhere you went in the city over the past few days and that feeling was brought inside Heinz Field for three periods." It was "more than just a game to the fans that came to Pittsburgh, it became a week-long event" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/2). In Toronto, Rob Longley wrote, "I've been to a dozen or more Steelers games at Heinz Field and it is among the NFL leaders in tailgate atmosphere. The hockey fans were up to the tradition, rivalling the Steelers in pre-game atmosphere. The city was alive with hockey fans from both teams all weekend, not bad in a football-crazy market" (TORONTO SUN, 1/2). Leonsis said, "My highlight of the night? Below me there were two sections that were about 50/50 Caps fans and Penguins fans. They were looking at each other, and you could see there was some tension. Then they all started chanting 'Flyers Suck!'" (Fred Dreier, SportsBusiness Journal).
Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field is a “front-runner” to land the ’12 Winter Classic, according to the CBC’s Pierre LeBrun. The NHL “prefers the NFL stadium model compared to the baseball stadium because there’s more seating (and) better line sights.” The Avalanche also are “interested and have a shot” at hosting the game. The Wild repeatedly have expressed their desire to host the game, but the league does not “see the Wild as a very sexy team to have in the game.” The CBC’s Glenn Healy noted several things need to happen before the location of the ’12 Winter Classic is decided, including the “quest for a major U.S. TV deal.” The FCC is scheduled to approve the NBC/Comcast merger later this month, and the NHL is the “number one property in sports up first” after the merger. However, if ESPN signs a broadcast deal with the league, they “might not even want a New Year’s Day game to go up against some of their bowl games.” Healy: “If NBC gets it, they love January 1. A lot has to happen before the next spot is picked” (“Hockey Night In Canada,” CBC, 1/1). Comcast-Spectacor President & COO Peter Luukko yesterday said that the Flyers had "not yet been contacted by the NHL." But he added, "We would certainly like to play a game in Philly next year or in the future." In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli writes, "It seems to make sense that the NHL could be interested in the Flyers to host their next premier regular-season game: The Flyers are a successful, big-market team with a supportive fan base; they produce record ratings on television; the NHL prefers football stadiums to baseball venues; and weather has proven to not be the ultimate obstacle." Philadelphia Sports Congress Exec Dir Larry Needle: "We'd be high on their list, a tremendous market to host an event like that. We would do whatever we could to pull it all together" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/3).
WHO'S GOT NEXT? ESPN.com's Scott Burnside noted, "The challenge for the NHL is in opening the door to other teams, other venues." It "must remain a cruelly selective process, though." Burnside: "Many have suggested Minnesota would be a natural to host a Winter Classic. Not a chance. Not with the team defined only by its mediocrity. ... We think Denver and the Avs remain an intriguing possibility. The Avs are a young and dynamic team. What about a game in Detroit at the University of Michigan's Big House featuring the Wings and the Avs in the next couple of years?" (ESPN.com, 1/2). In St. Louis, Jeremy Rutherford reported if Dave Checketts has his way, it "won't be long before his Blues are playing in the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium" against the Blackhawks. Checketts has "already had talks with Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt about hosting the game at Busch." If the NHL "chose not to award a Winter Classic game to St. Louis," Checketts said that the Blues "would be interested in playing in another city." Blues TV analyst Darren Pang: "St. Louis could easily host a Winter Classic. In fact, I would call St. Louis one of the No. 1 possibilities" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/1).
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: YAHOO SPORTS' Sean Leahy suggested that the Kings and Rangers face off at New Meadowlands Stadium for next year's Jan. 1 outdoor game. Leahy: "We've now witnessed four Winter Classics and not one has been played in (or involved) the biggest television market in the country." He added, "Imagine the buzz if Wayne Gretzky made his second outdoor alumni game appearance and played half the game in a Rangers jersey and the second half in the old silver and black of the Kings?" Also, it is "not just the NHL making the decision on who's involved." NBC "has their say in order for them to achieve the highest ratings possible and so will whomever gets the rights to the game next year." While some ideas "might be great for the hardcore hockey fan, the goal of the TV partner is to be able to market it to the mainstream fan" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/2). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote, "If the event is about gate receipts, it won't be coming to New York for some time." But if it is "as much about finding the perfect backdrop for television, if it is about the setting as much as it is about marquee teams, then Central Park would be the perfect venue." Brooks: "If they can build a rink on Sheep’s Meadow with temporary stands seating up to 20,000 -- people will come. If they play the Winter Classic in New York, people will notice" (N.Y. POST, 1/2).
WHAT ABOUT CANADA? In N.Y., Jeff Klein wrote his proposal for next year's game is Rangers-Maple Leafs at Rogers Centre, "roof open, CN Tower looming overhead, day or night." Klein: "The Winter Classic has been an all-U.S. affair up to now, largely because NBC fears losing ratings if a Canadian city is involved. But Americans skittish about words like 'Ottawa' and 'Edmonton' are used to Toronto after years of watching the baseball Blue Jays and basketball Raptors." Also, the Rangers are the "last Original Six team not to play in a Winter Classic." In recent years they "have not been camera-ready, but now they are a young, dynamic, charismatic team that wins." But there is "no way a Winter Classic would work in Gotham" (NYTIMES.com, 1/2).
CHILL IN THE AIR: The Calgary Sun's Eric Francis reported a lot of Flames fans are “very upset at where their tickets have been placed” for the Feb. 20 Heritage Classic between the Flames and the Canadiens, as well as the “price involved.” The Flames have “worked very, very hard at trying to explain to people that a) there’s not a good seat in the house for an outdoor game really, and b) this is not a money-making proposition. At best, it’s a break-even proposition.” Francis: “I’m not saying that’s true. I’m just saying that’s how they’re positioning it at this point.” The NHL “has purchased the game from the Flames,” so it is “not a big concern” for the team (“HNIC,” CBC, 1/1).
S.F. was chosen Friday to "host the next America's Cup in 2013, heralding a potential renaissance in competitive sailing and a boon of more than $1 billion to the local economy," according to a front-page piece by John Cote of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The city "beat out Newport, R.I., and Italy to host sailing's premier regatta, an international sporting event whose projected economic benefit is eclipsed only by the Olympics and soccer's World Cup." S.F. had been the "early front-runner to host the 34th Cup" after Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's team "captured the trophy in February off the coast of Valencia, Spain." The team, Oracle Racing, is "sponsored by San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, and the winning syndicate selects where it will defend the Cup." Cote noted "part of the attraction for race organizers is San Francisco's unique position to grow the sport of sailing." It is a "made-for-TV image that could easily appeal to sailing's largely untapped market in this country, and Ellison's group has said it wants to boost the sport's popularity, visibility and sponsorship potential by utilizing new media and having cameramen onboard the boats" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/1). In N.Y., Ken Belson noted "budget problems prevented San Francisco from paying an upfront fee to win the bid, so lawmakers offered the organizers rent-free access to waterfront property near the Bay Bridge where they can repair piers and build the needed facilities." To help organizers "recoup some of the estimated $300 million they are expected to invest in running the competition, the city also gave them longtime rights to redevelop the bayside land after the competition." S.F. will be the first U.S. city to host the America's Cup since San Diego held the race in '95 (N.Y. TIMES, 1/1).