Still a relatively new game, the Winter Classic is quickly becoming the biggest hockey game this side of the playoffs. The NHL is looking to boost interest in hockey any way it can, and with the Winter Classic they have struck gold. Not only do they get a much bigger turnout than what you might get at an indoor hockey game, they also get to market the game as the special event that it is. It is also great to see NHL hockey being played outdoors. It would be awesome if we got real snow for this year’s game, but if we don’t the NHL has some snow machines ready to go.
The inaugural Winter Classic was the first professional NHL game to be played outdoors. Before the game became the “Winter Classic” it had a Canadian counterpart that was known as the Heritage Classic. Because the game took place at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, the game was called the “Ice Bowl.”
There was tons of excitement for the game, and it set an NHL attendance record with an incredible 71,217 Winter Classic tickets sold. The Buffalo Sabres were designated as the home team, and they took on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The first Winter Classic was a hard-fought game that ended the regular time tied 1-1. This sent the game into an incredible shoot-out that saw Penguins Captain Sydney Crosby put the Pens ahead and seal the deal.
Setting up the Winter Classic
As you can imagine, making the Winter Classic a reality takes plenty of hard work. For the first Winter Classic, preparations began as soon as the Bills were done with their season. Initial work began on Christmas Eve, December 24 in order for the work to be complete in time for New Years Day. To start with, workers leveled of the top of the stadium with Styrofoam Insulation. On top of that plywood with p0lastic covering was laid down for the piping. Wet sand was used to fill in the gaps between the pipes and wood. The frozen ice was then painted, and then another layer of ice was added for game time.
Sale of Winter Classic tickets
the 41,000 tickets that were made available to the public were sold out in less than thirty minutes when they were made available on September 18. A Sabres spokesperson said that the quick sale was “a testament to how popular the Sabres are and how many people want to be part of the event.”
The Winter Classic, competing with the various Bowl Games, garnered a 2.6 rating and 5 share, making it the highest rated regular season NHL game since 1996. The game also led the markets in Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
In order to ad to the sentimentality of the event, the teams wore vintage jersey for the Winter Classic. The Penguins wore their powder blue jerseys, while the Sabres wore old white jerseys. The goalies also wore retro-painted masks. Game-time temperatures were close to freezing. There was also some snow toward the end of the game that made the game that much more special.
While Wrigley Field was chosen to host the 2009 Winter Classic, Yankee Stadium as well as Penn State’s Beaver Stadium were in the running.