Happy new year to you and your family from Cheer The Anthem!

The Winter Classic, at its best, is an outstanding event showcasing hockey. Last year at the Big House we saw two iconic teams, Red vs. Blue, snow falling all around the stadium, and it was a grand spectacle. It was exactly what the marketers and money people for the NHL and sponsors wanted to see. Hell, I’m so sick of the Maple Leafs and I loathe Detroit and I was glued to my television. And granted, I’m not the person the NHL is marketing this game to. I’ve watched Edmonton play Arizona this year so I’m watching no matter what, but man, the presentation of last year’s Classic had everything for good television watching.

This year, the Winter Classic was the worst of any they’ve had. It was certainly the least watched. To me, it seems obvious that the lack of drama surrounding these two teams and a handful of other factors may make this the most forgettable Classic to hardcore NHL fans and casual observers alike. The NHL decided to cast one of the most likeable and exciting teams in the Blackhawks against an absolutely bland, mediocre Washington Capitals squad in a baseball stadium that’s most memorable moment was an upper deck home run hit by Bryce Harper. Seriously! That was the lone moment that Mike Emerick came up with to showcase RFK Stadium.

On top of that, obviously, these two teams have no history of hatred or drama together. Alex Ovechkin once hit Brian Campbell in a bad way a few years ago. That’s pretty much the extent of any history these squads have with one another over the course of the last decade. Previously, we’ve seen Toronto vs. Detroit, Boston vs. Philly, New York vs. Philly, Washington vs Pittsburgh at the heat of their rivalry amongst others. Those games meant something to fans. Regardless of being a casual hockey fan or not, if you’re from Boston and are watching the Bruins play against the Flyers, you loathe the opponents. That gives life to these games. If you’re a Washington local, you’re going to work really hard to try and find thousands of people that collectively wish ill on Chicago sports teams. It’s not a built in rivalry, and this teams haven’t seen each other enough to even cultivate some familiarity and bad blood.

The NHL also really dropped the ball reaching out to a younger and cooler demographic again by booking some pretty fucking uncool musical acts. Billy Idol (who is still pretty cool), Gavin DeGraw and Lee fucking Greenwood? Which of those people have overlapping fan bases that are under 40? I didn’t know who the hell Gavin DeGraw was until I read this:

Last year, like it or not, they at least had Mayer Hawthorne, who is kind of hip. Yep, I linked to Pitchfork on a hockey blog. Whatever. You get the point. I think Ryan Lambert may have put it perfectly:

On top of the musical stupidity, the idea that this game should be played in the middle of the day is ludicrous without snow or cloud cover. It was too sunny and nobody can see the goddamn puck. The game, which is played indoors so the elements do fuck with the game, was actually affected by the sun. Sharp’s goal never happens indoors. The Caps got screwed by playing when the sun would literally affect only one goalie. Good job NHL. Look at this:

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.05.38 AM

The zip cam that was used was counterintuitive to the speed and flow of the game and was almost unwatchable for those of us with monster hangovers. I mean counterintuitive because from a press box or sideview camera, I get to see how fast plays develop, I usually get to see the whole play and what happens behind the play and I’m usually not 130 feet behind breakaways for the sake of a neat camera angle. And you get stupid shit like this for 20 seconds:

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 11.11.20 AM

Is anyone coming from the point here? Should I be surprised when the puck leaves the screen? I have no idea where the other three Blackhawks players are? This happened all game long and it was brutal.

To summarize the 2015 Winter Classic: get hipper with the entertainment, play at a cooler venue, get a better matchup, play in the late afternoon, and for the love of god just have a meat and potatoes steady cam for game play.

Notes on the game:

  • The referees were a goddamn embarrassment.
  • Joel Quenneville either needs to play Carcillo or find someone else. This 3 minutes of ice time shit needs to end. What’s the point of doing this? We saw this happen with Brandon Bollig, who was unquestionably worse at hockey than Carcillo. Why is this necessary?
  • I hope Kris Versteeg is alright. Otherwise, get ready for Ben Smith to get some top six minutes and for people to wonder if he’s using an upside-down stick when Toews passes him the puck and it ricochets off the boards.
  • Brooks Orpik is fucking terrible. Marian Hossa did a stop-n-start and walked him three times during the game. That happens to bad defensemen maybe once a week, not once each period.
  • Andrew Shaw is dumb and almost cost the Hawks, and then somehow he got rewarded for throwing himself into the boards. The love-hate thing I have with that guy looks like the output of a seismograph.
  • Cool of the NHL to use Champaign legends HUM in their new All-Star Weekend ads.

Time to right the ship on Sunday. Have a great 2015, and let’s all pray for Teuvo.

 

-TP