A true classic

I’ve never been to a Super Bowl; never to a Stanley Cup Final game; never to the World Cup; never to an MLB playoff game. I’ve never been witness to the in-stadium spectacle and attention one becomes a part of at such major sporting events, but I think I and the other 71,000 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium today can now say we have. What a day for the Sabres, the Penguins, the sport of hockey, the NHL and the city of Buffalo. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed or been more blown away by a sporting event than I was by today’s NHL Winter Classic; it’s not something any of the fans in attendance will soon forget (nor those who watched on TV, for that matter).

Among the many highlights:

  • A tailgate right up there with and exceeding any Bills game in my recent memory. Sabres fans haven’t yet been saddled with that burden of inevitable and enduring failure the Buffalo Bills have given us. NFL fever! CATCH IT!

  • Rousing renditions of O, Canada and God Bless America by Doug Allen and Ronan Tynan, respectively. The latter was highlighted by a flyover of four Blackhawk helicopters. (video)

  • The crowd was treated to an intermission performance by The Sam Roberts Band, who not nearly enough people know about. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever actually looked forward to any sort of halftime or sports-related music performance (see: P. Diddy, Fergie, Faith Hill, Pink, etc.) I’m glad the NHL and NBC haven’t joined the MTV generation yet.

  • You could not have asked for more perfect weather. Not too cold, not warm enough to melt the ice, just right. The intermittent snowfall did nothing but add to the spectacular atmosphere. It started to get colder toward the end of the 3rd period and overtime, but everyone was on their feet cheering by then.
  • A tremendous, new commercial featuring Ryan Miller. Watch and laugh. They played this three or four times in the stadium.
  • The Ralph might be the best choice for a game like this out of any other NFL stadium. It’s one of the few, because of its age, that has less sideline space between the seats and the field. Contrast that with the last outdoor NHL game in 2003 in Edmonton. That took place on a Canadian Football League field (wider and longer than the NFL’s) surrounded by an Olympic track. Not a lot of prime viewing angles there. I was in the 200 level and had a great view of all the action. I can’t imagine it was too much worse up in the 300’s.
  • LARRY QUINN: FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, WHY IN THE NAME OF FLYING SQUIRREL FERRETS DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THE UNDENIABLE SUPERIORITY OF THE “REAL” BLUE AND GOLD UNIFORMS?!!!!! PLEASE SEND THE SLUG BACK TO THE RAT’S NEST FROM WHENCE IT CAME ATOP DONALD TRUMP’S HEAD!!!! F@$%@#%!@#$!@$%!@#$!!!!!!*@%

The hockey itself (almost seems like an afterthought, doesn’t it?) wasn’t the high-flying offensive back-and-forth I’m sure the NHL would like, but the sight of professional players playing honest-to-goodness hockey in the middle of a football stadium in a light snowfall more than makes up for it. And you couldn’t do much better for a script. One goal each in regulation, a lively overtime, and a shootout decided on a goal by the league’s present and future poster boy, Sidney Crosby. A Sabres win might’ve made the day a bit sweeter, but not by much. I don’t know how it came across on NBC (or CBC, for my many Canadian readers), but this was a big-time sporting event and everyone involved pulled out all the stops to make it an all-timer, from NBC to the Bills and Sabres organizations to the fans. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Winter Classic Image Gallery

Winter Classic Video
Team Introductions
Pregame Skate
God Bless America
God Bless America/Flyover
Outdoor Hockey!

External Image Galleries

They don’t quite capture the amateur flair and passion mine have (translated: they have more expensive cameras than I do).
ESPN
TSN
NHL.com
ViewImages

5 thoughts on “A true classic”

  1. NBC’s coverage was disappointing to say the least. For starters, there was no particular context or scene-setting. Suddenly they were on the air doing a hockey game outdoors, talking about the playing conditions with only scant references to earlier outdoor affairs — most particularly the 2001 Michigan-Michigan State NCAA game in East Lansing, Mich., called the “Cold War.”

    Even though the game didn’t start until 22 minutes after the hour and there were numerous delays, you never got any kind of local context, instead a first-period intermission feature on the movie Slap Shot.

    In contrast, Hockey Night in Canada did a marvellous job with the telecast, the pregame show perhaps the best part of the day, given they set the scene so well, putting the game in the Buffalo context with the “Talking Proud” theme music the city used in days gone by. And the feature on the old Auditorium, which gave the city’s hockey history life, was outstanding, the franchise starting in 1970, the same year as the Vancouver Canucks.

  2. I should also add, NBC managed to go off the air for a few moments in the third period and then just as they went to a postgame interview with Crosby — first, of course, while HNIC waited patiently — they had more technical difficulties before finally getting him on the air.

    By that time, CBC’s Elliotte Friedman had a chance to think of a better question and not surprisingly got a much better answer from Sid the Kid when he compared his shootout attempt in front of all those people to a scene out of the movie Gladiator.

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