Winter Classic Round-Up

BRUINS 2, FLYERS 1, OT – Where do I begin?  I’ll start with the game itself and then get into some other stuff down below.  Unfortunately the Flyers lost.  It was particularly frustrating because they controlled just about every facet of the game until the very end.  What could have been a great day for the Flyers will ultimately be marred by controversial and crappy refereeing in the game’s waning moments.  I’ll be getting back to that.  As far as the overall experience, though, I loved it.  A huge KUDOS goes out to the Flyers fans in attendance at the game.  I had the volume turned way up and more often than not the small contingent of Flyers fans were louder than the vast majority of Bruins fans.  Dueling “LET’S GO FLYERS” and “LET’S GO BRUINS” chants could be heard throughout the game and I was impressed that try as they might, the Bruins fans could simply not drown out the Flyers fans. So the cheering gave the game a college-like atmosphere in the stands and the weather cooperated beautifully.  The best thing for me at the end was seeing the players playing in twilight with their shadows all over the ice as dusk fell on Boston.  The NHL markets the Winter Classic as a “return to your roots” kind of deal and watching the guys play as darkness fell had to make even the most hard-hearted person feel like they were watching a bunch of kids playing in a backyard.  A nice and unexpected surprise. 

However, in my mind the game & the telecast itself had a few GLARING issues (& one other cool thing).  They were:

  • GARBAGE CALL #1 – What pisses me off most about the game was that the referees screwed the Flyers.  Now I maintain that this is an ongoing problem whenever I watch Flyers games.  The Flyers always seem to be the most penalized team and they always seem to pay the penalty for some very questionable officiating.  That’s not to say that they’re saints & don’t take plenty of stupid penalties (yeah, i’m talking to you Scott Hartnell), but to me it frequently seems that the refs are out to get the Flyers.  Maybe it’s because of their reputation or history, I don’t know.  But yesterday, despite the pomp & circumstance, was no different.  The Bruins’ power play that resulted in Mark Recchi’s game-tying goal was an ABSOLUTE HORSESH*T CALL!  Kimmo Timonen was whistled for tripping a Bruins player which was funny b/c Kimmo was FLAT ON HIS STOMACH and the Bruins player was skating backward.  Naturally he tripped & fell to the ice.  BUT HOW THE HELL CAN YOU CALL THAT?? Timonen made no attempt to actually trip him and i’m not even sure he saw the guy to begin with.  It was a pathetically weak call in a very tight game but provided the NHL with late-game drama that would help the home team and inevitably boost the game’s profile on all the late-night shows so who cares if it was a sh*t call?
  • GARBAGE CALL #2 – This one was actually a NON-CALL.  If you watched the game you noticed that when Marco Sturm scored the game winner THERE WERE 5 BRUINS SKATERS ON THE ICE CELEBRATING. This is funny b/c there ARE ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE 4 SKATERS A SIDE IN OVERTIME!!  How the hell did the refs not call that? The Bruins had the textbook definition of a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty but the NHL needed wanted LOVED  is glad that the game ended with the home team winning in overtime.  Not only was this the first home team to actually win the Winter Classic but it provided great highlights for all the sports shows at night.  Who cares if it COMPLETELY SCREWS OVER THE INTEGRITY OF THE GAME!?!?  This would be like a team winning the Super Bowl on a TD pass with 12 men on the field.  The national uproar over something like that would be insane.  But b/c of the way Gary Bettman has run the NHL almost all the way into the ground nobody except Flyers fans really seem to care.  I know it’s only one game in the standings but if the NHL is gonna treat it like its own mini-Super Bowl, it needs to ensure that the game isn’t ruined for half the viewing audience because of stupid awaful *&%#@ refereeing. 
  • NBC MARKETING SUCKS – Note to the peacock network: If you market the game as starting at 1pm but don’t drop the puck until 1:40pm YOU’RE GOING TO LOSE SOME OF YOUR AUDIENCE!!  I love hockey and I love the Winter Classic but even I was bored out of my mind waiting for the game to start.  You knew with all the pre-game stuff the puck wasn’t dropping for at least 30 minutes so you should have called the first half-hour exactly what it was: a pre-game show.  That way, people who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in the game know to turn on at 1:30 if they wanna check it out.  There’s no way to be sure but I’d bet they lost a bunch of viewers who tuned in between 1 & 1:30 waiting for it to start but gave up when it didn’t and went back to watching football. 
  • NBC MARKETING SUCKS, PART 2 – Another note to the geniuses at NBC.  All week long you marketed live musical performances by James Taylor and Boston’s very own Dropkick Murphys as part of the Winter Classic experience.  Now even a Philly lover like myself finds the Dropkick Murphys song “Shipping off to Boston” kind of awesome so I was super excited that i’d finally get to see them perform it live on TV.  Of course it made a lot of sense, too, seeing as the game was in Fenway Park.  So imagine how annoyed I was when they finally cut to the performance AND THE SONG IS HALF OVER!!  That’s right, even though the idiots at the network spent time hyping the performance, they couldn’t coordinate things efficiently enough to show the whole performance and the viewers at home got SCREWED.  While the band took the stage and started performing, NBC WAS SHOWING COMMERCIALS!!  And they didn’t even cut the commerical break short – THEY JOINED THE PERFORMANCE IN MID-SONG!!!  How freaking ridiculous is this?!?!?  Seriously.  If you were watching at home and didn’t know who they were, you had no idea what the hell was going on.  Because NBC cut to them mid-song there was no announcement about who the band was or what their connection to Boston is.  Now the NFL subjects us to a full hour’s worth of music BEFORE the Super Bowl and we never miss a minute.  But NBC and the NHL couldn’t figure out how to get ONE MUSICAL NUMBER on TV in its entirety? Way to go geniuses.  If i’m the Dropkick Murphys I AM PISSED!!!  (Oh but don’t worry – we heard every last bar of O, Canada)
  • THUMBS UP TO BOBBY CLARKE & BOBBY ORR – One of the few things the NHL got right yesterday was bringing out Clarke & Orr for the ceremonial puck drop.  These guys had some of the fiercest battles hockey has ever seen back in the 70’s so to see the two of them start things off was a nice touch.  There was also a good amount of back-story that accompanied them so viewers who didn’t know much about the sport could learn a little something.

THE VERDICT – Another pretty good job by the NHL.  Everything i’ve read says it was the best Winter Classic yet, and as far as weather, attendance, and drama I suppose it probably was.  I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed things a little bit more had the Flyers not been on the wrong end of the scoreline.  I’ve watched all three of the Winter Classics and the NHL really seems to be on to something here.  Having an outdoor game on New Year’s Day, so as long as the league continues to be overprotective when it comes to when/where/who’s involved, should remain a viewing staple for many years to come.  I heard at the end of the broadcast that the NHL is encouraging owners and teams to think outside the box when it comes to proposing ideas for the Winter Classic and I think this is very smart.  One proposal that’s already been floated (and will hopefully come to fruition one day) is Flyers v. Penguins from Happy Valley (Penn State’s Football stadium).  That would be a PHENOMENAL event  (“THE BATTLE OF PENNSYLVANIA”) but is definitely a few years away because both teams have already played in a Winter Classic.  About the only thing you can count on for next year is that Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals will be involved.  He’s the league’s second-most (if not most) recognizable superstar and there’s no way they won’t have him involved in next year’s Classic.  His opponent and the location of the game will remain a mystery for the time being but I can promise you this: I’ll be watching.


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