The NHL announced a little more than a month ago that it will stage an outdoor hockey game January 1 in Buffalo between the Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game will be called the NHL Winter Classic, and will be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills. Good timing NHL – holding a special event such as an outdoor game on New Year’s Day when most sports fans in the U.S. are focused on college football bowl games. Poor NHL executives, they just can’t seem to get it right no matter how hard they try. (But I wish they would get it right because I love hockey.)
And one more thing: These outdoor hockey games in big stadiums, to me, just aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. The games may be great if you’re watching live at the stadium, but the weird camera placements create strange sightlines that often are obstructed by the outside of the boards. It’s a novel idea, but it’s tough to watch on the tube. NBC, TV home of the Penguins (Read that with sarcasm), will broadcast the game.
Anyway, Ralph Wilson Stadium seats more than 70,000 fans, and the game is expected to eclipse the old NHL attendance record set a few years back in 2003 by the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens at the Heritage Classic held in Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium. That game attracted a little more than 57,000 spectators in minus 22-degree wind-chilled temeratures. Brrrrrrrrrr!