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Another year has come, another Winter Classic has come and gone, and the debate of whether this is a gimmick that has run its course. To be honest, I have to say that I'm starting to think that the whole idea of the Winter Classic and most outdoor games being put on the shelf for a bit to freshen it up a bit. There's a couple reasons why, which I will point out-- in no particular order.
First, the limited amount of locales still available is one factor. The past two Winter Classics have been a bit sloppy in terms of the weather, which we can attribute to Al Gore. That said, the fact that we're going to Pennsylvania, which is usually nice and chilly at this time of year, and it's still sloppy-- it may limit the places for this event even more. What do you think DC could be like or anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Second, with the limited locales, you have the limited amount of teams that are available. This is the second time we've seen the Philadelphia Flyers, we've seen the Pittsburgh Penguins twice, and we'll probably see the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Washington Capitals twice when it comes to the Winter Classic. While the idea of the Winter Classic is all well and good to opening up the public to the NHL and its players, but at the same time-- it's enraging to most fans who actually are hardcore into the game.
Part of that, however, is due to the NHL and their agreement with the National Broadcasting Company and it's bevy of networks that come with it. NBC wants the ratings, NHL wants the ratings and exposure-- thus, you get the teams in the bigger markets and with the bigger named players on the roster. Which is a damn shame, because you have so many teams with so many young and talented players on it that the world will not see because NBC doesn't seem to want to give those teams the exposure. Which is a disservice to the league and the fans-- hardcore and casual-- but it will definite increase people shelling out cash for the Center Ice package if they want to see teams outside of their area, which is good and bad.
When it comes to the Heritage Classic, that's already a limited thing between the seven Canadian teams, in which people will come out for regardless of the situation or the area because of how much the people love the game. That said, that game seems to be every two or three years so they don't hit all the areas at once.
As far as the US areas are concerned, you will likely not have many more areas to deal with. In all honesty, you have Detroit, New York, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, and maybe Washington, DC left before you start to worry about this thing going into repeats. Sure, the ability to make and keep ice is there and you could really move it all over the place, however-- the sustainability has been tough in the past couple of season-- which makes me worry that they won't go south of DC.
The bottom line is that while this is a great thing to have around to get the causal fan into the game and to give exposure to the sport-- the fact you need a certain condition for it to be a great game and actually be true to life like every other game....we're looking at the last legs of the Winter Classic.