NHL Winter Classic

Last updated

NHL Winter Classic
NHL Winter Classic wordmark.png
National Hockey League
First played January 1, 2008
Times held12
Teams participated13
Most wins2: Washington Capitals (2011, 2015), New York Rangers (2012, 2018) and Boston Bruins (2010, 2019)
Most recent January 1, 2020
Most recent winner Dallas Stars

The NHL Winter Classic (French : La Classique hivernale de la LNH) is an annual regular season outdoor hockey game played in the National Hockey League (NHL) on or around New Year's Day, generally in a football or baseball stadium in an area with a resident NHL team. The Winter Classic is distinct from the league's two other series of outdoor games, the NHL Heritage Classic and the NHL Stadium Series. The first Winter Classic was held in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium (now New Era Field) in Orchard Park, New York, between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. Twelve Winter Classics have been held as of January 2020. The most recent game was played during the 2019–20 NHL season at the Cotton Bowl, with the Dallas Stars defeating the Nashville Predators 4–2.

Contents

After the success of the Cold War at Michigan State University in 2001 and the 2003 Heritage Classic, the NHL's first regular season outdoor game, the league inaugurated the Winter Classic in 2008. It eventually caught on as an annual tradition for the league, suspended only in 2013 due to 2012–13 NHL lockout. The 2014 game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings set a new NHL attendance record of 105,491. The Winter Classic has been contested only in the United States, while the Heritage Classic has been held exclusively in Canada. The Winter Classic featured only American teams for its first five games, until the Maple Leafs' appearance in 2014.

Along with the NHL All-Star Game, the Winter Classic is considered one of the NHL's premier events; with matchups generally booked to showcase the league's most popular teams and players, the event garners the league its highest attendance and among its highest television ratings. The event is typically promoted as a return to the sport's outdoor roots, meant to evoke memories of pond hockey. Its popularity has led to the scheduling of additional outdoor hockey games, both in the NHL and other leagues worldwide. In May 2014, the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily named the Winter Classic its "Sports Event of the Year," the second time in five years the Classic has won that distinction. [1]

History

Ralph Wilson Stadium (now New Era Field), near Buffalo, during the first Winter Classic in 2008 NHL Winter Classic 2008.jpg
Ralph Wilson Stadium (now New Era Field), near Buffalo, during the first Winter Classic in 2008

The Winter Classic as a television event was presented by NBC Sports Executive VP Jon Miller. He pitched the idea to the NHL in 2004 "but they didn't find the concept workable." [2] In December 2006, Miller found an ally in then Executive VP/Business & Media John Collins, who embraced the idea. [3] [4]

The first Winter Classic was held January 1, 2008, between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The game had a then-NHL-record crowd of 71,217 fans in attendance. The success of the 2008 NHL Winter Classic led the NHL to schedule a second one for 2009, held at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, on January 1, 2009, matching the Detroit Red Wings against the Chicago Blackhawks. That game had the highest American television ratings of any hockey game in 33 years.

The fifth Winter Classic was held in 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia The 2012 NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park.jpg
The fifth Winter Classic was held in 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia

Weather has proven to affect the game, with the 2011 and 2012 classics being delayed due to rain and other weather. Outdoor effects of wind and sun glare may give an unfair advantage to one team, so the NHL sometimes modifies the third and overtime periods. In this case, play is stopped at the midway point and teams switch directions. This option was exercised in 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2018. The 2008, 2014, and 2018 games also featured the teams switching ends halfway through the five-minute sudden-death overtime period for the same reason. In 2008 and 2014 the games went into a shootout, where both goaltenders alternated defending the same goal, rather than the normal practice of defending opposite goals.

The Winter Classic was made a part of the NHL schedule through at least January 1, 2021, as part of the league's television contract, initially with NBC and Versus, then just NBC after Comcast (the parent company of Versus) bought NBC and merged Versus into the NBC Sports banner.

The 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia was not played on New Year's Day, as that fell on a Sunday in 2012 and conflicted with the NFL's final week of regular season games. Instead, following precedent set by college football's bowl games (which move their games to Monday when January 1 lands on Sunday) and to prevent the risk of a weather delay pushing the game into the timeslot for NBC Sunday Night Football , the game took place on January 2, 2012. The game was played at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Neighboring Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, was reportedly preferred, but as the Eagles hosted a home game on January 1, the NHL could not undertake the required week-long renovations needed to construct the outdoor playing arena. The New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3–2.

The 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium saw over 105,000 fans in attendance, setting an NHL record 2014 NHL Winter Classic before puck drop.jpg
The 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium saw over 105,000 fans in attendance, setting an NHL record

The sixth Winter Classic was scheduled for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor in 2013, with the Detroit Red Wings hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six matchup. However, the 2012–13 NHL lockout disrupted the season, leading to the game's cancellation on November 2, 2012. [5] The matchup was rescheduled for the 2014 Winter Classic, at the same venue with the same participants. [6] It was the first time a Canadian team participated in the Winter Classic. An NHL-record total of 105,491 tickets were sold, greater than the Guinness World Records-certified world-record attendance of 104,173 at The Big Chill at the Big House, also held at Michigan Stadium. [7] However, on January 24, 2014, an NHL source reported that the certified attendance, based on tickets scanned at the venue, fell short of the world record. [8]

In 2017, the Winter Classic was the second of two outdoor games to be held over the New Year's weekend, with the NHL Centennial Classic being held in Toronto on January 1 and the Winter Classic following on January 2. The St. Louis Blues defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by the score of 4–1, scoring 3 goals in the third period.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first Winter Classic, the NHL announced on May 10, 2017, that the Buffalo Sabres would take part in the 2018 game against the New York Rangers at Citi Field. Due to a 1982 agreement with New York City and state tax laws that give their home arena Madison Square Garden tax-exempt status, the Rangers must not "cease playing" home games at MSG (which is generally interpreted as meaning playing a home game at any other venue), and thus Rangers hosted the game but played as the visiting team. The arrangement gave the Sabres only 40 games for the 2017–18 season in their home city of Buffalo, while the Rangers played 42 games (not counting away games against the New York Islanders) in New York City. The NHL had used a similar policy for the Rangers in the 2014 Stadium Series and the 2011 NHL Premiere. [9] [10] [11] The game was played on January 1, 2018.

The 2019 Winter Classic was hosted at Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana. Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium, 2019.jpg
The 2019 Winter Classic was hosted at Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana.

On November 18, 2017, the NHL announced that the Chicago Blackhawks would host the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic scheduled for January 1, 2019. The game was played at Notre Dame Stadium, in Notre Dame, Indiana, and was the first instance of a Winter Classic being played in a different state and media market than the host teamthe stadium is located less than 100 mi (160 km) from Chicago but is served by television stations in South Bend. [12]

The NHL announced on January 26, 2019, that the Dallas Stars would host the Nashville Predators in the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. [13] It would be the first Winter Classic to take place at a warm-climate city and the first outdoor game for both the Predators and Stars. The Stars won the game 4–2 in front of 85,630 fans, the second largest attendance in an NHL game behind the 2014 Winter Classic. [14]

The league announced on January 1, 2020, that the 2021 NHL Winter Classic will feature the Minnesota Wild at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. [15] The league later confirmed the St. Louis Blues as the opponent.

Possible future sites

Due to the popularity of the event, every NHL team has requested to participate in the Winter Classic either as the host or the visiting team. Numerous locations have been mentioned in the media as potential sites for future Winter Classics or entries in the NHL Stadium Series, including Michie Stadium, FedExField, Ohio Stadium, motorsports venues such as the currently under construction Canadian Motor Speedway in Fort Erie, Ontario, and even non-sports venues like the National Mall or Central Park. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] New Sabres and Buffalo Bills owner Terrence Pegula and commissioner Gary Bettman have discussed the possibility of hosting a second Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium (since renamed New Era Field), possibly to coincide with the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, which will include one outdoor game. [22] Former Toronto Maple Leafs President Tim Leiweke expressed his desire to host the 2018 game at a renovated BMO Field to mark the Leafs' centennial (he eventually got the Centennial Classic instead). [23]

Any future additional Winter Classic games in Pittsburgh would have to be held at PNC Park due to scheduling logistics with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who for the 2011 game requested to the NFL to play Week 16 on Thursday night and Week 17 on the road in order to give the NHL time to get Heinz Field ready for the game. (Indeed, work started immediately after the Steelers finished their Thursday night game against the Carolina Panthers, as NFL players were still coming off the field when work started on converting the field.) Both PNC Park and Heinz Field would be available, however, for a Stadium Series game (Heinz Field eventually hosted the 2017 Stadium Series game). [24] Another possibility for the Penguins, Flyers or Sabres (Pegula is a prominent Penn State alumnus who has hosted an annual exhibition game at Penn State's indoor hockey arena since 2016) would be Beaver Stadium on the campus of Penn State University, located between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. [25]

Harvard University and the Boston Bruins have explored the possibility of asking the NHL to schedule the 2024 Winter Classic at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Massachusetts to coincide with the Boston franchise's 100th anniversary year. If awarded the 2024 Winter Classic, the Bruins are expected to ask the NHL to again have the Montreal Canadiens as the opposition.[ citation needed ]

List of NHL Winter Classics

YearVenueSport of venueLocationVisiting teamHome teamScoreAttendance
2008 Ralph Wilson Stadium Football Orchard Park, NY Pittsburgh Penguins Buffalo Sabres 2–1 (SO)71,217
2009 Wrigley Field Baseball Chicago, IL Detroit Red Wings Chicago Blackhawks 6–440,818
2010 Fenway Park Baseball Boston, MA Philadelphia Flyers Boston Bruins 1–2 (OT)38,112
  2011   Heinz Field Football Pittsburgh, PA Washington Capitals Pittsburgh Penguins 3–168,111
2012 Citizens Bank Park Baseball Philadelphia, PA New York Rangers Philadelphia Flyers 3–246,967
2013 Michigan Stadium College football Ann Arbor, MI Toronto Maple Leafs Detroit Red Wings cancelled due to lockout
2014 Michigan Stadium College football Ann Arbor, MI Toronto Maple Leafs Detroit Red Wings 3–2 (SO)105,491
2015 Nationals Park Baseball Washington, D.C. Chicago Blackhawks Washington Capitals 2–342,832
2016 Gillette Stadium Football Foxborough, MA Montreal Canadiens Boston Bruins 5–167,246
2017 Busch Stadium Baseball St. Louis, MO Chicago Blackhawks St. Louis Blues 1–446,556
2018 Citi Field Baseball Queens, NY New York Rangers Buffalo Sabres 3–2 (OT)41,821
2019 Notre Dame Stadium College football Notre Dame, IN Boston Bruins Chicago Blackhawks 4–276,126
2020 Cotton Bowl College football Dallas, TX Nashville Predators Dallas Stars 2–485,630
2021 Target Field Baseball Minneapolis, MN St. Louis Blues Minnesota Wild

Appearances

TeamAppearancesLastWinsLosses
Chicago Blackhawks 4 2019 04
Boston Bruins 3 2019 21
New York Rangers 2 2018 20
Washington Capitals 2 2015 20
Detroit Red Wings 2 2014 11
Pittsburgh Penguins 2 2011 11
Buffalo Sabres 2 2018 02
Philadelphia Flyers 2 2012 02
Montreal Canadiens 1 2016 10
St. Louis Blues 1 2017 10
Toronto Maple Leafs 1 2014 10
Dallas Stars 1 2020 10
Nashville Predators 1 2020 01
Minnesota Wild 1 2021 00

Throwback sweaters

Teams often wear throwback, or retro-styled sweaters for the Winter Classic Scrum in Front (4242089942).jpg
Teams often wear throwback, or retro-styled sweaters for the Winter Classic

For the Winter Classic, participating teams typically wear throwback, or retro-style sweaters, and occasionally retro-styled equipment. The throwback sweaters are popular with fans, and teams have often continued to wear them after the Winter Classic. The Penguins and Blackhawks made their Winter Classic sweaters their alternates the following season. The Flyers went a step further and made their 2010 Winter Classic sweaters their permanent road sweaters, beginning with 2010–11. The Sabres had already been using a variation of their throwback sweater prior to their appearance (that particular season, there were no third sweaters anywhere in the league) and adopted a slightly updated version of the sweaters as their main uniform in 2010–11, while the 2011 contestants, the Penguins and Capitals, wore their classic uniforms as third jerseys in 2011–12. The Capitals continued to do so through the 2014–15 season, the same year the Flyers adopted their 2012 Winter Classic sweaters as their third jerseys.

Fans on stilts adorned in the sweaters used for the 2009 Winter Classic Stilt walker dudes + Jay + Jack (3157189383).jpg
Fans on stilts adorned in the sweaters used for the 2009 Winter Classic
During the 2015 Winter Classic, the Chicago Blackhawks wore throwback sweaters, whereas the Washington Capitals wore a retro-styled sweater Saad-Winterclassic2015.jpg
During the 2015 Winter Classic, the Chicago Blackhawks wore throwback sweaters, whereas the Washington Capitals wore a retro-styled sweater

Coverage

Television ratings

The Winter Classic has proven to be a ratings success for the league in the United States and is regularly the league's most watched regular season contest (in the US), rivaling the ratings for the Stanley Cup.

The 2014 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs had a television viewership in the U.S. and Canada of 8.2 million television viewers, a North American record for a regular season game; in addition to setting an NHL-record paid attendance of 105,491. [40] Sportsnet's Chris Johnston said, "The feeling when the players walked into the 87-year-old stadium in front of more than 100,000 fans was truly something special. The biggest and best Winter Classic of them all lived up to its advanced billing." The game went down to the wire, ending in a 3–2 Toronto victory in a shootout. [41]

Canada

Despite the overwhelming popularity of the original Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers in 2003, the popularity of the Winter Classic in Canada is not as high as it is in the United States. On Canada's CBC Television network, the Winter Classic has lower ratings than its weekly regular season telecasts Hockey Night in Canada . This has been attributed to the lack of Canadian teams in any of the Winter Classics and has led to both the revival of the all-Canadian Heritage Classic and the scheduling of the Maple Leafs in the 2014 Winter Classic and the Canadiens in the 2016 edition. Nevertheless, the Winter Classic continues to air on Canadian television, but since 2016 the games are moved to Sportsnet. In addition, Sportsnet elected to simulcast NBC's feed of the Winter Classic as opposed to sending their own broadcast crews, except when a Canadian team is involved (as was the case in the 2016 Winter Classic featuring the Canadiens).

United States

A television camera and media personnel at the 2015 Winter Classic. The event has become the NHL most watched regular season game in the United States. 2015 NHL Winter Classic IMG 8049 (16319429811).jpg
A television camera and media personnel at the 2015 Winter Classic. The event has become the NHL most watched regular season game in the United States.

The Winter Classic games usually rank among the most watched regular season NHL games on NBC reacquiring the rights to the NHL in 2005. Early entries in the Winter Classic ranked among the highest ratings for professional hockey in the United States since the 1970s, prior to that, the highest rating for an NHL game since then had been Wayne Gretzky's final game, which aired on Fox in 1999. Winter Classic viewership peaked in 2011 and, with the exception of one-year bumps in 2014 and 2019, has been in a mostly steady decline since then.

  Year  RatingViewersNetworkRef(s)
2008 2.23.75 million NBC [42]
2009 2.54.40 million NBC [42]
2010 2.13.68 million NBC [42]
2011 2.34.50 million NBC [42]
2012 2.13.73 million NBC [42]
2014 2.54.40 million NBC [42]
2015 1.93.47 million NBC [42]
2016 1.62.78 million NBC [42]
2017 1.52.56 million NBC [43]
2018 1.42.48 million NBC [44]
2019 1.92.97 million NBC [45]
2020 1.11.96 million NBC

[46]

Documentary series

In 2010, the NHL and HBO announced a four-part documentary series as part of the build-up to the 2011 Winter Classic. The series, entitled 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, gave HBO exclusive access to the teams that were participating in the game. [47] HBO went on to air two more editions in 2012 and 2014. [48] [49]

For the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Winter Classics, the NHL partnered with Epix to air another series of four-part documentaries. The first two editions carried the Road to the NHL Winter Classic brand [50] [51] , but the 2017 edition was retitled Road to the NHL Outdoor Classics with the inclusion of the NHL Centennial Classic as part of the buildup. [52]

Starting with the 2018 Winter Classic, the NHL opted to distribute the Road to the NHL Winter Classic series to its broadcast partners. In addition, each episode was made available on NHL.com and the league's social media pages. [53] [54] [55]

All episodes of the series are produced by Ross Greenburg in conjunction with the NHL.

Impact

Sports Illustrated columnist Dan Shaughnessy said of the new Winter Classic, "[N]ow hockey owns New Year's Day the way baseball owns the Fourth of July and football owns Thanksgiving." [56]

Its popularity in the United States led to the American Hockey League adopting a similar contest in 2010, the AHL Outdoor Classic, which it continued to organize each season through 2017–18. Both the Winter Classic and the earlier Cold War contest helped repopularize outdoor hockey at the college and university level, and several college organizations, minor and junior hockey leagues hold outdoor games each year. The Winter Classic also led to the revival of the Heritage Classic, an outdoor game featuring only Canadian NHL teams; and the creation of the NHL Stadium Series, another regular season event held at an outdoor venue.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Third jersey

A third jersey, alternate jersey, third kit, third sweater or alternate uniform is a jersey or uniform that a sports team can wear instead of its home outfit or its away outfit during games, often when the colors of two competing teams' other uniforms are too similar to contrast easily. Alternate jerseys are also a lucrative means for professional sports organizations to generate revenue, by sales to fans. Of North American sports leagues, the NFL generates $1.2 billion annually in jersey sales, with the NBA second selling $900 million annually. Another use of the alternate uniform is for identifying with causes, like the Central Coast Mariners wear an alternate pink kit on pink ribbon day.

NHL uniform

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2008 NHL Winter Classic

The 2008 NHL Winter Classic was an outdoor regular season ice hockey game played in the National Hockey League (NHL) on January 1, 2008, at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 2–1, in a shootout on a goal by captain Sidney Crosby. It was the inaugural Winter Classic game, and was the NHL's second outdoor regular season game and the first outdoor regular season professional ice hockey game to be played in the United States. The event was sponsored by AMP Energy, and was televised in the United States on NBC and in Canada on CBC and RDS. Due to the snowy conditions, the game was at the time colloquially referred to as the "Ice Bowl" by residents of the area and Sabres' fans.

2009 NHL Winter Classic

The 2009 NHL Winter Classic was an outdoor regular season ice hockey game played in the National Hockey League (NHL) on January 1, 2009, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. It pitted the Chicago Blackhawks against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in the 701st game between the Central Division rivals. The Red Wings won the game, 6–4, despite falling behind 3–1 in the first period. It was the second Winter Classic game, the first to involve at least one of the Original Six teams, and the first to feature teams from the Western Conference.

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2014 NHL Stadium Series

The 2014 NHL Stadium Series was a series of four outdoor regular season National Hockey League (NHL) games played during the 2013–14 season. This series is distinct from the NHL Winter Classic and NHL Heritage Classic outdoor games. The Stadium Series games consisted of: the Los Angeles Kings against the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on January 25, 2014; the New Jersey Devils against the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx of New York City on January 26; the New York Islanders against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium on January 29; and the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field in Chicago on March 1, 2014.

NHL outdoor games Professional ice hockey games played outdoors

The National Hockey League (NHL) first held a regular season outdoor ice hockey game in 2003, and since 2008 the league has scheduled at least one per year.

2015 NHL Winter Classic

The 2015 NHL Winter Classic was an outdoor regular season National Hockey League (NHL) game, part of the Winter Classic series, played on January 1, 2015, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The game, the seventh Winter Classic, matched the Chicago Blackhawks against the Washington Capitals. The Capitals were victorious with a final score of 3–2 after right winger, Troy Brouwer, scored the go-ahead goal with less than 13 seconds remaining in regulation play. This marked the first time in Winter Classic history that the home team won in regulation, the 2010 Winter Classic was the first one to be won by the home team which came in overtime. The game garnered an attendance of 42,832, and was televised nationally in the United States on NBC and in Canada on CBC.

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2017 NHL Winter Classic

The 2017 NHL Winter Classic was an outdoor regular season National Hockey League (NHL) game, part of the Winter Classic series, played on January 2, 2017. The game featured the St. Louis Blues taking on the Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, home of Major League Baseball's Cardinals. The game was announced on March 9, 2016, after news of the matchup had been leaked on February 7 before the details had been finalized, and was one of four outdoor regular season games during the 2016–17 NHL season.

NHL Centennial Classic

The NHL Centennial Classic was a regular season outdoor National Hockey League (NHL) game that was held on January 1, 2017. The game featured the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Detroit Red Wings at BMO Field in Toronto. Because Scotiabank is a direct competitor of Bank of Montreal, the league renamed the facility Exhibition Stadium for this event. This was the first time an NHL outdoor game was played in Toronto.

2018 NHL Winter Classic

The 2018 NHL Winter Classic was an outdoor regular season National Hockey League (NHL) game, part of the Winter Classic series, played on January 1, 2018. The game featured the Buffalo Sabres matched up against the New York Rangers at Citi Field in the New York City borough of Queens, home of Major League Baseball's New York Mets. The game marked the 10th anniversary of the NHL Winter Classic, following the success of the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton, Alberta.

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  43. "Jan 2 2017 Winter Classic on NBC did 1.54HH rtg & avgd 2.557 mil viewers". NBC Sports PR. January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  44. "The 2018 NHL Winter Classic on NBC, featuring the Rangers v. Sabres, produced a 1.42 HH rating & a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 2.484 million viewers, doubling the average viewership of last year's NHL on NBC regular-season games". NBC Sports PR. January 3, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  45. https://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwtv/article/2019-Bridgestone-NHL-Winter-Classic-On-NBC-Delivers-Best-Viewership-For-Event-In-Four-Years-20190102
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