Winter Classic Delivers Again For NHL With Rangers' OT Win Over Sabres At Citi Field
A crowd of 41,821 turned out to Citi Field yesterday to see the Rangers beat the Sabres in "dramatic fashion" in the 10th annual Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, according to Brett Cyrgalis of the N.Y. POST. Rangers LW J.T. Miller scored a power-play goal in OT and was "mobbed by his teammates while pyrotechnic displays went aflame from every which direction of the Mets’ sprawling ball field." Fans "rejoiced, as well, having suffered through the temperatures that peaked at 20.5 degrees for puck drop and plummeted as the shadows grew longer and the sharp gusts ripped through the already blustery Flushing wind tunnel" (N.Y. POST, 1/2). The AP's Vin Cherwoo notes there was a "shadow across about half the ice lengthwise at the start of the game." By the middle of the first period, the shadow was "at least partially covering about two-thirds of the ice, with the team benches in sun along the outfield edge and facing where home plate usually sits." The playing surface was "completely in the shade at the start of the second period, except for the side boards" on the first base side of the field. The national anthem was performed by the Every Voice Choirs, a N.Y.-based group of children born in '08, the "year of the first Winter Classic." The Goo Goo Dolls "performed during the first intermission" (AP, 1/2). On Long Island, Mark Herrmann writes, "Ten years into the Winter Classic, and this still is a big deal." Yesterday's game was a "huge hit." It was only a regular-season game and yet it "seemed like a whole lot more, which is a tribute to the league and the greatest marketing idea it has ever had" (NEWSDAY, 1/2).
KEEPING IT LOCAL: In N.Y., Larry Brooks writes the Winter Classic "no longer creates the national footprint it did when the NHL’s outdoor extravaganza was created 10 years ago." It no longer "makes for appointment viewing." Yesterday's game was the "least-hyped Winter Classic yet." There was "no alumni event, no preceding indoor matchup to serve as an appetizer." But that made "no difference at all while they played the Granddaddy of Them All in frigid Queens." Outdoor games are "spectacles that are savored in their respective local markets and by the athletes who participate in them." The NHL "hit it out of the park again." Rangers RW Mats Zuccarello said, "The whole experience was amazing for us as players and hopefully for the fans" (N.Y. POST, 1/2). Rangers RW Jesper Fast said, "One of the most fun games I played. Brings back memories from when you're young and I enjoyed every minute of it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/2).
GIVE EVERYONE A CHANCE: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington noted the NHL is "looking to strike a balance into its choices of teams and sites for the Winter Classic." That is something NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly "reiterated Friday." Putting the Blackhawks into the affair for the fourth time next year and the Bruins into it for a third "is not cool." The league "needs to do better on this front, as it announced a ho-hum" Blackhawks-Bruins matchup for Jan. 1, 2019, at Notre Dame Stadium. The Blackhawks are the "team you want in the game if you're going to play" at Notre Dame, but they were "just in the game" in '16 in St. Louis. NBC can "never get enough of the Blackhawks, Penguins, Capitals, Bruins and Flyers." The league has held outdoor games in warm-weather cities, and Harrington asked, "Why not a Winter Classic in Tampa Bay? The NHL shouldn't shy away from a Western Conference affair either. Make it happen in Vegas. Or Nashville. Or Minneapolis" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/31). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes, "Sooner or later, we need the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers at Penn State." Allen: "Wouldn’t you like to see a neutral site game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay? How about the Rangers at West Point?" Panthers Owner Vinnie Viola and Golden Knights Owner Bill Foley are "both West Point graduates" (USA TODAY, 1/2).
HISTORIC MOMENT: Bruins RW David Backes said of playing in the Winter Classic next year, "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you really need to soak up and enjoy and it's pretty fun, so I'm looking forward to it." In Boston, Joe McDonald noted some believe that the league has "too many outdoor games during the season, but the fan response hasn't dwindled." Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy: "I like the idea of it. Does it get to be too much, or too many? That's part of the conversation. Does it lose its luster? I don't know" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 1/1).