The Instigator Podcast 6.6 – Back to Hockey

Training camp opens this week and the Sabres prospects were back playing competitive hockey. In addition to discussing the Prospects Challenge, we touch on the coming changes to game presentation, the addition of giveaways and offer up some reaction to the Winter Classic logos that were released last week.

 

Sabres, Buffalo Add Outdoor Wrinkle to Win 2018 World Juniors Bid

Some interesting and exciting news spiced up a relatively quiet Thursday when word got out that USA Hockey was awarding the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships to Buffalo. The most notable piece of news, apart from who would be hosting, is that an outdoor game would be part of the 2018 tournament.

While the Sabres and the city did a fabulous job hosting the event in 2011 the 2018 edition will have the added wrinkle of an outdoor game. This is undoubtedly the biggest part of the whole announcement simply because Buffalo was always seen as leaders in the clubhouse to win the bid. When word filtered around social media of the outdoor game the first reaction was centered around who would play in it, and how could Team USA and Team Canada be guaranteed to be the ones facing off at the 50 yard line at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The tournament field has yet to be confirmed, let alone the schedule, but as Frank Seravalli of TSN reported the host city may petition to move a team from one group to another. This would make a USA-Canada match up at The Ralph a near certainty.

For what it’s worth, as long as Canada is playing it I think the outdoor game will be a quick sellout regardless who they line up against. The more than 70,000 people certain to pack the stadium would be the biggest crowd ever to watch a junior hockey game and all but guarantee the 2018 tournament be record breaking when it comes to attendance.

Once people got over the initial excitement of there being another outdoor game to look forward to in a few years speculation began to swirl that the Sabres were a slam dunk to host the Winter Classic in 2018, creating an outdoor doubleheader of sorts. John Wawrow has reported the Sabres have officially petitioned the NHL to host the league’s marquee event but it is not a mere formality that the Sabres will be heading outdoors. Continue reading

NHL risking oversaturation with more outdoor games

With news breaking that the 2013-14 schedule may have upwards of four outdoor games, my wheels again began to turn at the thought of the diminishing spectacle that is outdoor hockey.

The lockout prevented the 2013 Winter Classic from occurring but the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will meet on New Year’s Day 2014 to make up for their missed appointment this past January. In addition, rumors have indicated that the Canucks will play host to the Heritage Classic with additional whispers of a Kings and Ducks showdown at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodger Stadium game is expected to occur on Hockey Day in America and would potentially serve as a doubleheader with another outdoor game played at Yankee Stadium featuring the Rangers. The latter three games have yet to be confirmed, but it would appear that they’re going to be part of the plans for the 2013-14 season.

While I think the Hockey Day in America doubleheader could make for some cool television, I fear that by the time those two games roll around no one will care much for the outdoor product. As it stands now, the Winter Classic makes for a fun game to watch in the elements even though the on-ice product isn’t always up to snuff. Scheduling a pair of games to come after the Winter and Heritage Classic could seriously cheapen what has otherwise become a very cool product.

I wrote this last year about the potential for watering down what these outdoor games mean. I fear that oversaturating the market will change these from unique spectacles to just another blip on the NHL radar. Continue reading

Outdoor games need to be scaled back

The Winter Classic has developed into a yearly spectacle that is must-see TV. From its birth in 2008 (really 2001), the game has grown to include numerous ancillary events and games. In fact, the events surrounding the Winter Classic are becoming nearly as exciting as the main event. However, has the genesis of outdoor hockey grown too big?

Beginning with the Cold War and Heritage Classic, outdoor hockey games were a unique take on a classic game. Those original incarnations have helped breed an incredible genesis of games putting the game back to its purest form.

The run of outdoor contests since the original two outings has grown in recent years. It seems as if the idea and glamour surrounding an outdoor game is growing a little too popular. Counting the first Winter Classic in Buffalo and the original Cold War in Lansing, only four major outdoor games were played in North America. Since 2008 there have been 17 major outdoor games. That number doesn’t include alumni, women’s NCAA, major junior or European contests. There is one additional AHL outdoor game scheduled for this season.

Considering that 2011-12 has been the year most populated with outdoor games (eight), it would be safe to assume that the trend is only bound to continue growing. The question that is slowly beginning to loom must be; when will it stop? Continue reading

Custom helmets are always a treat for the Winter Classic

I’m completely obsessed with goalie equipment. It is a problem. At one point I had three mask prepared to be sent away and painted. Unfortunately fortunes change and only one of those got a paint job.

Aside from the even itself, the best part of the Winter Classic each season is the different gear the goalies sport. It hasn’t become a yearly tradition – some goalies don’t bother making changes to their gear – but a majority of the goaltenders to participate in the Winter Classic have made some change to their appearance to reflect the  event.

The easiest and most common change is to simply get a special paint job done for the day. Only six goalies have decided against any change, including their helmets. Although, Brian Boucher did wear a touque, despite keeping his normal paint job.

Gear changes have been more rare, but seem to be trending towards the norm in recent years. Dany Sabourin was the only goalie to wear different gear than his usual until last season in Pittsburgh.

There have been 21 goalies involved in the five Classics (three in 2008 due to MAF’s injury). Only Jocelyn Thibault, Ty Conklin (09), Chris Osgood (09), Nikolai Khabibulin (09) and Sergei Bobrovsky (12) have chosen not to add anything to their look whatsoever. The remaining 16 chose to make some change, whether it be a helmet or pads.

Since ranking each individual’s look based on gear would offer an unfair advantage to some, this Winter Classic history lesson will be based on the helmet designs while offering bonus points for gear. Continue reading

The potential return of the Winter Classic

Could the Winter Classic return to Buffalo?

Ted Black has made many a comment regarding his desire to return the Winter Classic to Buffalo. Based on the wild success of the first installment, it would certainly be a welcome return.

The post is fueled only by the passing comments Black has made about his desire to host the event. However, his diligence could certainly bring quick results in terms of hosting. Not to mention the fact that Terry Pegula’s money could seriously augment the roster over the coming seasons.

I would predict Buffalo could see the Winter Classic again by 2015. Minnesota, Detroit and Washington are likely to be in the running to host the event before any seconds are offered. Colorado would also be in the running if they can become relevant. But Minnesota certainly deserves a shot and Detroit and Washington likely have a wink-wink, nudge-nudge agreement with the league to get a game in the next few seasons.

So, Buffalo is probably three years away from being a candidate to participate in another Classic, let alone host one. While the league has doubled back regarding participants, no team has hosted twice in the history of the five-year event. In fact, the most recent hosts were former visitors; another factor aiding Detroit and Washington. Regardless, the weather in Buffalo is usually cooperative to this sort of event (aside from this year) and the fans showed overwhelming support the first time around. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Aside from the hurdle of other teams getting first dibs, fans will also need to deal with another monster altogether. Tickets. Continue reading