Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Outdoor Games

The spectacle of the outdoor games for the NHL are quite the events, something really built around the visiting fans. The Heritage Classic in Calgary, besides having crappy seats for the game, was really a great atmosphere to be in, as the NHL put on a very good party for the game and the other events surrounding the game were also quite good.

The outdoor games have historically been rather hit and miss for the pool, as I'm going to outline below.  It was a few more misses than actual hits.

With the outdoor game playing a huge role in the 2014 season, I think there should be a limit to how excited anyone really gets with these games, when it comes to the pool.  These are good games to watch and they are great for the fans, but the poolies can really do without them.

The outdoor games did start with the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton, but that was a game I didn't cover, nor did I watch, due to my living circumstances at the time.  Heck, can't even give me a recap of the game and my only memories of reading about it was that it was really cold.

Winter Classic Logo photo winterclassic.gif
The 2008 Winter Classic, Penguins and Sabres, was a fun game to watch, seeing the NHL try out a lot of their new ideas under the snowy lights of Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, but the scoring was not there.  The game finished as a 2-1 win for the Penguins, in the shootout, which meant there was only two goals to take from in the game and then a couple points for one of the goalies for the pool.

The winning goalie that year... Ty Conklin.  Not too sure there were many pools or pool teams that had Conklin active, let alone being picked that year.  I know that my pool didn't have him anywhere near the teams.

With the success that the first Winter Classic saw, there was little doubt that they were going to stop at just one.

 photo NHLwinterclassic01.gifThe 2009 Winter Classic, Wrigley Field in Chicago, between the Red Wings and Blackhawks   As outdoor games go, this one was a spectacle for the ages, as the scoring was through the roof and there were a few pool teams that were able to cash in on this one, as the Red Wings took it, 6-4.

There were a number of players that had multiple-point games and most of them were taken in the pool that year, which means that the game was a success for those watching, attending and incorporating those players on your pool team.

Learning a lesson from the year before, Ty Conklin was taken in the waiver draft that year, picking up another win and adding those two points to a hockey pool total.

2010 Winter Classic Logo photo 2010winterclassic.gif
Fenway Park, Flyers and Bruins, 2010 Winter Classic... another low scoring affair and the worst part of this game was that out of the three goals that were scored, none of the goal scorers were taken in the pool that year.  Danny Syvret, Mark Recchi and Marco Sturm were not playing a part in that year's draft session, nor were they picked in the first waiver draft, which would have happened not long before the game went.

Only six of 17 teams in the pool that year had picked up points and one team picked up 3 points, thanks to the Tim Thomas win and a Patrice Bergeron assist.

The game was a pretty good draw, nevertheless, and it moved along at a pretty reasonable pace, by outdoor game standards.

NHL Winter Classic Logo photo 2011winterclassic01.jpgThe first of two outdoor games in 2011 was the Winter Classic, this time in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins played host to the Capitals.  The game finished up as a 3-1 win for Washington, where there were a few more goals and pool teams were picking up a few more points, but the Classic was really made whole by the start of the HBO series, 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic.

The behind the scenes look at the two teams in the weeks leading up to the big game, turned out to be the biggest highlight of that year's game, since you really got to see the inside workings of the game from the players and coaches standpoint.

Still, all of that inside information didn't help a great deal in those pool standings, as only six of 20 teams picked up points in that game.  Sure, it's only two teams playing in the competition, but still... you would hope for it being such a big event, a few more pool teams could get some points and have some fun with it, right?

The Heritage Classic Logo photo 2011heritageclassic.gif
2011 also saw the second outdoor game to be played in Canada, as the Flames played host to the Canadiens (who also played in the first game in 2003) in the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

The weather wasn't as cold as it was in Edmonton, according to historical recollections, but it was pretty cold in that stadium, I can say for sure.

By outdoor standards, a 4-0 win for the home team was a pretty good improvement to outdoor games for the hockey pool, because four goals was an improvement over the last couple Winter Classics, plus Miikka Kiprusoff picked up a shutout, which meant a couple of extra points that came from the crease that year.  Sure, since the draft is based out of Calgary, there is always going to be that bias towards picking the home team in the draft, so it should come as no surprise that a few more players picked up points and a few more teams cashed in.

All in all, the Heritage Classic in Calgary was a pretty good success.

 photo 2012winterclassic.gifThe 2012 Winter Classic, set in Citizen's Park in Philadelphia, saw the Flyers play their second outdoor game, this time hosting the New York Rangers in a pretty good clash of two playoff-destined teams.

For that Winter Classic, I did a better job outlining the meaning in the pool, getting a good preview, showing all the pool teams that were participating in the game and their players and it was a pretty good spread.  Between the Flyers and Rangers, they were popular teams that year, so the Classic became a bit more interesting.

With all those teams in the pool, there was another sense of disappointment, as the game finished 3-2 for the Rangers, which wasn't a bad score, considering other games, but only 9 points were registered among all those pool teams and players and only one team had a multi-point game, leaving seven other teams with one point each.  It wasn't a good haul at all.

Again, the highlight of the Winter Classic in 2012... the HBO series.  24/7 made a couple players stars that were bigger than the game and provided the real entertainment.

Of course, with the lockout at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, all of the mid-season competitions and events were canceled, which meant no All-Star Game (which was meant for Columbus) or Winter Classic (which was destined for Detroit).  It was rather disappointing, but at the same time, there was no need for anything extra, as teams raced for the playoffs in the 48-game season.

As mentioned at the top of the post, the outdoor game is going to feature rather largely in the 2014 season, as the NHL has now scheduled the Winter Classic, four Stadium Series games and a Heritage Classic, giving us six outdoor games.  The league is going for broke with these big games, but in an attempt to win fans, I think this is not a bad way to do it, as they should fill some seats.

 photo 2014winterclassic.pngThe 2014 Winter Classic will indeed head to Detroit, which will make up for the lack of the 2013 Classic and it will feature both the Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, as it was decided the year previous and it will take place on it's regular date... New Year's Day, 2014.

The Wings and Leafs have historically been two teams that have had pretty good draws in the hockey pool drafts, the Wings more so because of their actual talent and their tendency to score goals, where the Leafs get picked out of fandom, more than anything.

Nevertheless, the Big House in Michigan will be a great setting for this game, which should set some attendance records for the NHL.

With a couple of years between Classic games, I am hoping that the NHL has made some serious improvements to the technology for the ice, keeping it cold and at a good consistency that we can watch a whole game without much ice repair stoppages.

 photo 2014stadiumseries.pngThree cities, four games, seven teams... that is the scene that will be set for the new Stadium Series in the 2014 season, as NHL cities were clamoring for an outdoor game, so the league said, let's give them what they want.  Los Angeles, New York and Chicago will all play host to an outdoor game, Chicago for the second time, in an attempt to give the game some more exposure on the outdoor ice.

January 25th, the scene will be Dodger Stadium, as the Los Angeles Kings will play host to the Anaheim Ducks, as the West Coast will get their first outdoor game.  There is no doubt, even though it will occur in late-January, that this will be the biggest test for the league and their outdoor game equipment.  I don't think I will expect much out of this game for scoring.

January 26th, Yankee Stadium will play host to the first of two games, as the Rangers will take on the Devils at the new(er) venue.  The first game may be a test run for the second game, but if technology has improved, the end of January on the East Coast shouldn't have much for adverse weather for this game... in theory.

January 29th, the Islanders will get their shot to take on the Rangers outdoors and if there were any kinks in the first game at Yankee Stadium, the second game should have most of those polished off.  I think this game will be a lot of fun, especially since the Islanders are coming up in a big way and the Rangers will give them a great game, rivalry-wise.

March 1st, the last of the Stadium Series games will play between two outdoor veteran teams, the Blackhawks playing host to the Penguins at Soldier Field.  The beginning of March in the Windy City has a lot of potential to be cold, which means the ice could be pretty decent for two good-skating teams and it could provide a good game for the poolies.

 photo 2014heritageclassic.pngFinally, the Heritage Classic, Canada's only outdoor game for the 2014 season, will go on March 2nd, at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, as the Canucks will host the Ottawa Senators, two outdoor game virgins.

The newly-renovated BC Place will offer and interesting venue for a big game like this, as the new retractable roof can offer an open-air game, which is the ideal setting for the game, but knowing Vancouver, if there is much in the way for rain in the forecast, it could very well close the roof and it would end up being one of the largest indoor games played in the NHL.

Every opportunity will be given to the setup crew to make this an open-air game, I'm sure, but with the mild temperatures on the coast, the ice has quite a few challenges to face in this game.  I don't see this game being a real high-scoring affair either.

Really, the outdoor games shouldn't go into much consideration, when choosing your pool team for the year, mostly because, they are limited to only one game per team, unless you're the Rangers and low-scoring games happen, regardless of being indoors or outdoors.  Yes, these games will all count, but they won't necessarily count for much.

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