Mike Babcock’s Hat Just One of Many Great Things About the Winter Classic in Chicago

 

Courtesy Abel to Yzerman

Courtesy Abel to Yzerman

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. 

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Two Bald Men to Stand Between Benches at Hockey Game on Baseball Field (Plus Actual “Winter Classic” Conference Call Coverage)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, this isn’t a “Tournament of Announcers” post.  Nor is it a “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs” t-shirt.  Now, can you honestly tell me that the average hockey fan knows which one is Pierre McGuire and which one is Darren Pang?

Well, NBC is going to give America that challenge this New Year’s Day when they televise “Winter Classic 2: Chicago Bugaloo” live from Wrigley Field at 1PM.  I have nothing against either analyst (though I’m not crazy about Panger and his insistence on not turning his mic off when he has nothing to say) but seriously, NBC, can we please mix it up with someone who’s got a little hair going on?  How about forcing one of them to wear a toupee at the game?  The possibilities are endless.

That said, here are the highlights of NBC’s Winter Classic conference call:

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Awful Announcing Attempts to Take Winter Classic Promo Down a Peg

Sometimes, we don’t wanna have to be that guy you know who won’t shut up about how great hockey is, and defending it to all his friends and whatnot.  But here, we have to get up on the soapbox and complain about something.  Awful Announcing, one of our favorite blogs to ignore hockey (and we mean the “favorite” part sincerely), decided to lower itself to talk about the unanimously-declared awesome “Winter Classic II: Chicago Bugaloo” promo.  Instead of go on about how cool it was, how reverent it was to both hockey and baseball, he decided to point out, incorrectly, that hey, that might not have been Harry Caray!

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Why Bob Costas at the Winter Classic is Good

That mug above this typing is Bob Costas’.  He’s done remarkably little actual work since NBC lost the rights to MLB, the NBA and the AFC in the late 90’s/early 00’s.  A horse racing event here, a golf tournament there.  Obviously, the Olympics, and eventually Sunday Night Football, have given him something to do, but there are even rumblings that – with the mass of humanity on that show – he’ll quit that gig too.  

Let’s face it, the man, in his current days, is not a workaholic.  He has every right not to be.  He’s worked pretty much every major event in the sporting world (except the Stanley Cup Finals – c’mon Bob!  Join us more often!) and obviously has enough money to spend his time as he wishes.  

So, when he does choose to do something – and an NHL game at that – it lends some credibility to the event.  That is exactly what his appearance at Winter Classic I did, and is exactly what his hosting of Winter Classic II: Chicago Bugaloo will do.  How do we know he’s in?  Well, if you haven’t seen this promo yet, first of all: Where have you been?  Secondly, listen to the last 10 seconds or so for Costas’ voice, post-jump.

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Will Barack Obama Say “Yes We Can” to the Winter Classic?

Some titles are too easy.  Anyway, doesn’t our President Elect look rather bad-ass in that photograph?  His face is all “check this out, I got me a Wings jersey.  Tell Palin’s hockey moms to go bag skate for the day.”  Obama may have to leave is Red Wings jersey in the closet (where were sure it holds a prominent place) for January 1, 2009.  Why?  Because Blackhawks President/Ambassador to Anyone Who’ll Listen John McDounough is attempting to get Senator Obama to attend to the Winter Classic game, according to Ken Campbell’s cover story in this week’s THN (Subscription Req. to view Digital Version):

 

Among those the Hawks hope will take in the game is Chicagoan Barack Obama, who at that time will be 19 days away from being inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States.  Obama is an avowed White Sox fan and even though McDounough worked for the Cubs, he’s working on some of the people in Obama’s camp.

As far as I’m aware, William Jefferson Clinton was the first sitting President to take in a hockey game, though I cannot find any proof of it happening.  We know the Red Wings and all past champions have been to the White House, but this would certainly be the greatest connection ever between a President and a hockey game, which begs the question, how big could the Winter Classic become for the sport and the league, just by the image of Obama attending, even dropping a ceremonial faceoff?

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