January 1, 2009 Leave a comment
Let it be known throughout the land that 2009 was the year we all discovered that, while it couldn’t match the unique spectacle of the inaugural event, the Winter Classic can be a different, equally indelible and, ultimately, supremely entertaining showcase for the National Hockey League every year. This was the year where the Classic proved it had staying power.
First of all, the presentation the NHL put on was terrific. I felt the decision to stick with Chicago sports celebrities – Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins – over mainstream Second City/Hollywood talent was a good one. Everyone among the 40,818 at Wrigley enjoyed it, and most importantly, got into it. The “Detroit Sucks” chants brought the game a unique look from what seemed to be a divided crowd in Buffalo last time around.
The NBC broadcast was first rate. You almost wish they would bring it inside for their nine “games of whatever week NBC has open broadcast space”. The pre-game show, which lasted a surprising half-hour, set the scene perfectly. Bob Costas truly has a Mike Emrick-ian (as Doc would no doubt say) knowledge for baseball history’s many anecdotes. He was able to use baseball’s great heritage and a “good enough” grasp of what was going on hockey-wise to give viewers a healthy prep-course for the game. Remember, a good chunk of today’s viewers have not watched an NHL game on TV yet this year, so giving them something to pay attention to was important.