Dear Hockey Fans: Please Don’t Ruin a Potential Pittsburgh/Washington Classic
March 29, 2010 7 Comments
Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the following yesterday:
A few details still have to be addressed, but things are falling into place for the Penguins and Washington to play the NHL’s 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field Jan. 1.
There is no word on when an official announcement will come. The NHL traditionally does not make one until mid-summer, around the time the coming season’s schedule is released.
Neither the Penguins nor the league will confirm that the game will played here.
That game should be fun. It would be some of the league’s biggest superstars in what is budding into the NHL’s new Colorado/Detroit, just with less crazy and less toughness. It’s a somewhat non-traditional rivalry between two teams in pretty big markets with fan bases that have never been more into their teams. The Penguins may be more popular now than they were in the Lemieux years, and the Caps are much more attractive in DC than they were when competing for a Stanley Cup.
Point is, this game should be a celebration about all things great in hockey, and a definite reaction to the pretty crappy game played this season. Let’s admit it, the Philadelphia-Boston classic on the most recent New Year’s Day was a snoozer for about 55 minutes, saved by a late goal and an Overtime thrill.
But it won’t be fun. Hockey diehards won’t allow you and me to enjoy this game. From the Twitter debates between many bloggers since Molinari broke the story, the words on either side of the debate – whether or not Pittsburgh should be in a 2nd classic in four seasons – have been flat-out groan inducing. People thinking the NHL has a duty to other teams to get them involved, a duty to the fans to show them some variety.
It’s all a load of crap. The NHL doesn’t owe anything to it’s teams in this case. This is something the league puts down a ton of money for, and the 2010 Classic showed that – while it can be a merchandising bonanza – it’s not ready to stand on it’s own merits without star-laden teams. Washington-Pittsburgh would likely come close to doubling the ratings from the Philly-Boston game on NBC, and maybe even do better ratings than some of the college bowl games, unless Penn State’s involved.
As for the fan aspects? Please, the fans haven’t proven to this league that they’re willing to watch anyone but the Penguins and Capitals. Look at the ratings, you don’t want to see Rangers/Bruins. Hell, you didn’t even want to watch Flyers/Bruins this year. The fact is, hockey fans (and a few “casual” ones) aren’t tuning in for more than a few teams, lets allow the league to capitalize on their ability to draw.
Look at it this way, Penguins/Capitals in 2011 is a chance for the NHL to stabilize the Winter Classic as a TV brand. I know the league has plans to go to Minnesota in 2012. While there is a wonderful hockey following in the State of… well, hockey, they are far from a sexy TV team. A Pens/Caps classic brings the rating up to a point where it becomes a yearly blockbuster, regardless of teams, perhaps even to the point where a Canadian club could get inolved. Haha, just kidding with you. That’ll never happen.
Remember, the NHL also needs to sweeten the classic as a TV product to draw interest from networks to air the event in future years. As I am often asked, the NHL’s TV deals in the United States come to an end after next season, so negotiations with numerous networks will likely come to a massive peak in the month between the Winter Classic and the All-Star break. Getting a network to buy into the event means promoting it like the dickens, and finally getting a little cash for doing this thing.
So, a plea to my fellow diehard puckhead: Just shut up about this. Go with the flow, and try to enjoy yourself when the inevitable Crosby/Ovechkin showdown at the house of the terrible towels happens. It’ll be a heck of a ride if you just allow yourself to have fun. Don’t worry about overexposure. Just worry about some good hockey.