NHL Should Keep Adding on to Winter Classic Weekend with All-Star Night

Puck the Media is live in Philadelphia for the Winter Classic Alumni Game, and for the actual Winter Classic on Monday. For more info on the activities, follow me on Twitter @stevelepore.

So I’m standing behind home plate at Citizens’ Bank Park Saturday afternoon at around 4:30 p.m. ET. The hockey is dull, as most of the men playing are in their 40’s and 50’s. We’ve still got another period to go in what feels like a low scoring game (2-1 Philadelphia) for a game that doesn’t count. The thing is, despite all of this, I haven’t seen one person without a smile on their face in the crowd of 40,000-plus. And with everything I’ve ever heard about Philly, that seems like a pretty big accomplishment.

Even if the hockey isn’t great at the Winter Classic alumni game, the spirit certainly is. The only time the color orange will ever be accepted among the hoards of humanity here at Citizens’ Bank Park (as a Mets fan, this is the time when I remind you that baseball is a cruel, unhappy game) and they showed up in spades. Everyone stood for Mark Howe’s penalty shot goal and a 4-1 Flyer win, and created some of the loudest noise I’ve ever heard at a baseball stadium (again, baseball is sad and cruel).

Even if there’s nothing in terms of ratings to gain from yesterday’s Winter Classic Alumni Game, this much is certain: the league got a palpable buzz boost from this year’s game, the second annual event. People were excited just to hear the lineups for this thing. It has officially added a second (if you count practice, third) day to the whole Winter Classic experience. I can’t imagine there’s a way we don’t see this at every Winter Classic from now on.

So the question is this: can we go bigger?

Here’s my proposal. A reminder before-hand that it is merely a proposal and I don’t know how feasible this is, but here you go. The NHL All-Star Game has long been considered a dud by most standards. Though ratings are up, and the All-Star Fantasy Draft has added some fun to the proceedings, one could argue that fans are tired of the game and that we don’t really need to shut down the league three days a season for a meaningless exhibition.

So why not make the day in between the Alumni Game and the Winter Classic a Winter Classic All-Star Night instead? Now, I’m not talking about doing the All-Star Game at the Winter Classic, but here’s the idea: on the night in between the Alumni Game and the Winter Classic, hold the old superskills competition. Invite players from every team (you don’t really need a limit) and hold the skills competition over two hours. Have all of the competitions count for goals between conferences, and hold a period of shinny between the two teams to decide a winner, with both teams donating a substantial amount to charities.

While it could just be a shortened version of the All-Star Game, you’d be taking the parts of it that are widely recognized as being fun, and not over-doing it on the game aspect of things. You could even do a small fantasy draft element of it: name captains (possibly from the two Winter Classic teams) and have them pick it old-school, playground style. Put in on under the lights, in primetime, on NBCSN and CBC on the 31st, with the Alumni Game on the 30th, and you have three days of awesome, fun NHL activities, and you only shut down the league officially for games on two of those days.

This would also force the NHL to keep expanding the Winter Classic to markets that aren’t necessarily going to get it in the immediate future. The Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars and other sun belt (and let’s face it, Canadian teams) aren’t likely to be involved in this anytime soon. So get at least one player from every team, and give the fans that cool “my guy made it!” feeling from the All-Star Game, and compound it with the Winter Classic.

At the end of the day, the two teams, filled with legends who have won Stanley Cups, Hart Trophies and Gold Medals (just to start) gathered at center ice for a photo that I’m sure will be autographed and go to auctions for thousands of dollars. It is a true celebration of this wonderful sport’s past. What if, on the next night, you could have that same photo taken to celebrate it’s present and future? This would make the Winter Classic even more of a tentpole, must-watch event every year.


About Steve Lepore
Contact me at stevemlepore@gmail.com

10 Responses to NHL Should Keep Adding on to Winter Classic Weekend with All-Star Night

  1. Sean says:

    How did u miss ur chance w al trautwig …the answer was Kate smith…horrible idea

  2. paranoidpuck says:

    Enjoy the game, Steve. Its truly an unforgettable experience. I got to go to last year’s game and it was incredible. I’m crossing my fingers for the next games to be in DC and Detroit since the odds are pretty good that I can get in to both.

    I can’t imagine any city hosting the All Star Game would wanna lose a night of activity but that’s beside the point. I’m not sure if you’re proposing to get rid of the ASG but its a big money maker for the league and its host cities. The sponsors like it and most cities want it since it brings a high profile event to town. I don’t see that ending anytime soon.

    I think you need to think through your idea a little more. Its good in concept but there’s plenty of issues with it.

    Number one, there’s the issue of weather. I don’t think its worth shutting down the entire league when you can’t have a guarantee from Mother Nature that it can even be played. You’d have plenty of disappointed ticket holders and a wasted event since it would be nearly impossible to reschedule it.

    Number two, the ice. Due to the unpredictable weather and other variables, the ice can be an absolute nightmare. Does anybody wanna see a star hit a rut and injure themselves all for a vanity contest? There’s fears of that happening indoors during the ASG. I just can’t see teams wanting players to risk doing a deke in the pouring rain.

    And finally, league scheduling. You’re proposing to have every team shut down on New Year’s Eve? Good luck getting the owners to go along with that. NYE is one of the biggest ticket draws of the year, not to mention a tradition in many places. Places like Detroit have had a NYE game for at least 50 years. Why should they give that up for a silly skills competition that earns them virtually nothing?

  3. Eddie says:

    I’m predicting this game to hit a all-time tv ratings record for a NHL game. Last years game was 4.5 milion? I think 5 million is a safe number to predict. Also, remember NBC got that bonus game for tonight’s Cowboys/Giants. NFL gave that to them and I’m sure they’ll be hyping the winter classic very nicely. Along with Bob Costas who will be there tonight for the Giants game and then tomorrow in Philadelphia.

  4. Eddie says:

    When I mean record. I mean for a regular season game.

  5. dyhrdmet says:

    but if you invite players to play on New Year’s Eve in a skills competition, you really have to shut down the league so that there aren’t conflicts with players’ teams’ schedules. if you do that, why not just have the ASG outdoors next year. And New Year’s Eve isn’t going to be a big TV night in the US, so you lose those ratings.

  6. dyhrdmet says:

    so what are your thoughts on the Winter Classic next year and beyond? Stan Fischler reported on the Devils pregame the other night that the Big House in Ann Arbor gets it next year (Detroit SHOULD get a chance to host too) and Yankee Stadium is next, which seems to make sense (I guess the Pinstripe Bowl contract ends in December 2012).

    But if this event is to help showcase the NHL, shouldn’t they not ignore some of the smaller but colder-weather US-based NHL teams, like Colorado, Minnesota, St. Louis, Columbus and New Jersey instead of having repeats in the Winter Classic (if Detroit gets it next year, 3 repeats in 6 years)?

    • stevelepore says:

      I think we go Detroit-Washington-Minnesota-New York the next 4 years, then go from there.

      Blues-Red Wings

      Then we’ll figure out what’s next. Probably Colorado and then MAYBE we try a southern market for kicks. Also, if Seattle gets a team, is there anyway they don’t go on that list of the team’s a success?

      • dyhrdmet says:

        I know there’s a lot of logistical and political issues related to bringing the Winter Classic to New York (either clear out Yankee Stadium and build a rink, move the game to work with the scheduled football game, or to build a stadium around the rink in Central Park are the only ways to satisfy NBC), so as a Devils fan, that was a stretch (so is the MetLife Stadium doubleheader they could have had before I realized how the sun impacts things or even NBC choosing the Devils or Islanders over the Rangers for a game).

        Do you think Washington DC could sustain cold air enough to not make the ice a disaster? I wouldn’t go any further south than that.

        Knowing how warm the weather in the pacific northwest (in the US) and pacific southwest (in Canada) can get, I think Seattle (or even Vancouver) may be on par with Washington DC. But there would be some teams angry over being passed over for Seattle if the league went there too fast.

        But I can’t argue with your choices for the next 4.

  7. Eddie says:

    I would like to see Detroit/St.Louis for the next one. With it being played at the Big House. You do want to spread it out a little. Having the big markets are great, though St.Louis is a very strong market. Great attendance. And you’re moving a little closer to mid-america. Then maybe the year after Boston/NYR from Yankee Stadium would be epic. Or New York/Chicago.

  8. kevin says:

    Someone once said….don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs………….

    Next year will be Boston at Detroit

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