They’re cranking up the publicity for the newest edition of the hockey’s Winter Classic.
The event staged by the National Hockey League (NHL) on or around New Year’s Day is a regular-season ice hockey game is played outdoors, generally in a football or baseball stadium, in an area with a resident NHL team. This year’s editionj pits the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. the game will be played on January 1, 2016 at Gillette Stadium, home of football’s New England Patriots which is located between Boston and Providence.
The first Winter Classic was staged in 2008 and it has proven to be popular among many – garnering the league its highest attendance and among its highest television ratings. Its popularity has led to the scheduling of additional outdoor hockey games, both in the NHL and other leagues worldwide.
The event is typically promoted as a return to the sport’s outdoor roots, meant to evoke memories of pond hockey. Special “retro” jerseys are worn. An alumni game is routinely played at the venue as well.
It has so worked that 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.
At the same time there is cause to ask about the authenticity of the event and the past it tries to tap into.
NHL hockey has been an indoor game, played in urban and then suburban & exurban settings as well. Players may have played road hockey or pond hockey as kids, but the closest to a pond is probably a pool at a hotel on a roadtrip.
And, Yankee Stadium, Gillette Stadium or the University of Michigan are not easily confused for the rural ponds of Nova Scotia, Minnesota, or B.C.
Finally, the uniforms being used for this year’s game can serve to inform and enlighten as well. If one is looking for authenticity, that term should be used loosely. For example, According to the team’s official website, the Boston uniform for the occasion is inspired by the first uniform worn by the Bruins during their inaugural season in 1924-25. But that uniform was brown – this Winter Classic “retro” uniform is in black (“colors updated”) to match Boston’s current uniform.
As for the Canadiens unfis, according to officials, their jersey “recalls multiple elements related to the Canadiens rich history”. The chest stripe is a shade of blue inspired by the first-ever Canadiens jersey worn after their founding in 1909. The central crest features a “CH” with colors inverted from what has been the norm for 90 years. The “C” is white and the “H” is red, as they were in 1923-24, the season the team won its first Stanley Cup® championship as part of the NHL. An image of a globe on the sleeve borrows from the “World Champions” design worn by Montreal the following season to celebrate its championship, a season where the franchise also began its longstanding rivalry with the newly-founded Bruins, then playing in their inaugural campaign. The jersey also features a distinctive red collar originally is reminiscent of that worn in 1945-46, a season that culminated in the Canadiens, led by the “Punch Line” of Maurice Richard, Hector “Toe” Blake, and Elmer Lach, defeating Boston to earn their sixth Stanley Cup® Championship.
It is said that the throwback sweaters are very 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.
So too is the game popular. It indeed is turning into a classic, proving 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. Its popularity in the United States led to the American Hockey League adopting a similar contest in 2010, the AHL Outdoor Classic, which it has reprised each year since. 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. 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.
(Though, 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 low and declining. 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).
The classic is here to stay and has already come to be a fixture on New Year’s Day. It is building its own authenticity, and that’s for the good of the game.
But, we hope as it does so it accurately celebrates its authenticity and let us separately recall the past and its own authenticity as it really was. Hockey has a wonderful past to be celebrated. We hope that past and its authenticity is not confused for one created to celebrate this very modern-day sports and marketing event.Share