Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Just like Ugs, a classic winter mistake

I have been sitting on this one for awhile, waiting to see what other angle or aesthetic drags itself from some unknown hole to be judged and valued. Yes my friends, the NHL will hold the 2009 Winter Classic on January 1st, with my beloved Red Wings facing the bastards from Chicago. The game takes place in one of the top three holiest baseball shrines ever, bubblegum field.

I voiced thorough disapproval over the game last year, to which Penguins fans told me I was jealous and I would change my tone if the Red Wings had a national spot light like that. Well, here I am to say that as the day fast approaches, and new details seem to have subsided, I remain opposed to the game. That is not to say I won’t watch with great interest.

Several things about this whole event irk me. First is the basic molestation of the NHL and its relevance as a brand. Yes this is America folks, a place where sports and championships mean squat unless paying customers buy in. The Stanley Cup would be played for in some back room poker game if zero people paid to watch competition for it. So on this day, the NHL has said “Hey, we cannot alter our game, promote our stars better, or hire a better commish to raise ratings, so let’s go act like a circus act for attention!”

This is all the Winter Classic amounts to, a ratings pull. I will not accept the “heritage of the game” roots argument. Maybe when the League pulled off the Montreal versus Edmonton game several years ago as an exhibition match; that was fine and dandy. Now when they send teams overseas for actual regular season contests, as well as this, I see them for the misguided ratings whores they are. Look, I would work for ratings too, but I’d do it through star recognition, rivalry building, cheaper access, not a side show.

No, now that they show this game as a “centerpiece” yearly, I think it is a gag. This is an event waiting for disaster. NHL players are world class athletes. They play at a faster speed than any athlete on the planet, and on the most volatile surface any game is held. Until they take up rocket-bike polo on the top of a volcano, hockey is the fastest sport. (Sorry NASCAR, I won’t even go there today.) For those of you unfamiliar with ice hockey, the ice itself is a science. Well paid men work day and night to ensure the ice stays as perfect as possible Not only does this make sure the puck plays smoothly, but that million dollar athletes do not hit a rut and blow an ACL.

So what happens when an ice rink is built outside in conditions you cannot control? You ask for disaster. Sure, last year was pretty. Snow falling, cold Canadian weather blowing into Buffalo. Beautiful. What happens when unseasonably warm weather brings rain or ruins the ice in Chicago? The zamboni already had more ice time than Crosby in Buffalo, so what then? It better not be the Red Wings young superstar player who tears a knee on a rut that would not have been present indoors.

Outside of the quality of the game, I just dislike the approach. True hockey fans bitched about the Fox Trax puck, idiot-proof explanation of the rules and commentary, why do we accept a blatant pull for some of the NCAA Bowl game ratings on New Years Day?

My intelligent argument aside; I hate the Wings’ jersey; the classic wheel from the glory days would have been better suited. I think the old non-Tigers English D just confuses people and was used by the club for a short period of time for a reason.

This is not to say I won’t watch, cheer and hope for a favorable outcome on the 1st like other Wings fans, but I’d rather do it at a traditional Joe Louis New Years Eve game. Let someone else from a team without history get sacrificed.