The Winter Classic is a chance for hockey to showcase itself to the world. It draws a huge audience, both in person and on television. So when teams are picked, the hope is that they put on a really exciting game. But if the Flyer and Rangers play a game that resembles the one from this past weekend, I think people will be sorely disappointed.
You never know when you’ll have an exciting game or a snoozefest. But you try to look at as many factors as possible in hopes of putting on a great game. And the players are aware of the stage, so they try to do their best to give people something fun to watch as well. When the NHL picked New York and Philadelphia, they likely had quite a long list of appealing reasons for doing so:
- Star Power: Brad Richards, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Henrik Lundqvist and a few others. No doubt this decision was made prior to the trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, so maybe the league was a bit pissed after that went down. But maybe the addition of Jaromir Jagr and Ilya Bryzalov brightened them up.
- Rivalry: These are a pair of division teams with a history of bad blood. They downright hate each other. Every season has it’s own storyline between the two. So when they play each other, something fun usually happens.
- Popular sports cities: True hockey fans would watch any good matchup. But this isn’t about just us diehards. This is about a broader appeal to all sports fans. New York is a massive media market, and just their involvement alone will draw viewers, no matter how good or bad the team is doing. People either love their appeal or despise it, but they always pay attention to whats going on in the Big Apple. Meanwhile, everyone flat out hates Philadelphia. But they still watch us because we’re also a major sports town that makes headlines all of the time. Again, it’s not always good news coming from here. But people still pay attention.
- 24/7 Characters: No doubt one of the best ways to help make the sport more popular is to give fans an inside look at the players. I’m sure every locker room has their fair share of colorful personalities. But here you have a pair of coaches in Peter Laviolette and John Tortorella that usually give the media good quotes. You’ve got Chris Pronger and Sean Avery. There’s a few guys that switched sides in the past few seasons. And I’m sure there are plenty of other surprises along the way. All that makes for good television, and hopefully a bunch of new fans.
All of this is great. But when it comes down to it, the way to retain fans is to have a great game when everyone is watching. 3 days ago, when the Rangers won 2-0, it was a pretty bad game. Things started off fun with some fighting and a nice breakaway save. But after that, things slowed down. Part of the problem is the score. I can easily watch a 0-0 game if it’s well played. But I know that’s not what sells. Scoring sell. And 2 goals in an hour is not enough. On top of that, there wasn’t that much offensive pressure. There weren’t tons of amazing chances and highlight reel plays. I get that the teams are just trying to stick to their system and earn 2 points. This simply will not cut it on January 2nd though.
I know defense wins. You have to have good defense. But you don’t have to be boring when you have that sort of system. Look at the Lightning when John Tortorella was the coach there. They were a very high tempo team, and it ended with them winning a Stanley Cup. Why has he changed his style in New York now? The Rangers are the best defense in the league right now. And they completely shut down the few futile attempts that the Flyers made. But they didn’t push the pace that hard the other way either, when they easily could have. The teams meet once more before the Classic, on December 23. Let’s hope they get a bit more fiesty, a bit more aggressive, and open things up a bit more. The last thing we need is a game as boring as the Flyers-Bruins classic 2 years ago.
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Topics: 2010 Winter Classic, 2012 Winter Classic, 24/7, Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Flyers-ranger, Henrik Lundqvist, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Jeff Carter, John Tortorella, Mike Richards, New York Rangers, Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers, Sean Avery, Tampa Bay Lightning