The Chicago Blackhawks are the hottest ticket in hockey and have been for the past six seasons, so it comes as no surprise that the NHL has chosen the Hawks to once again participate in the 2017 Winter Classic.
This time, they’ll draw their rival St. Louis Blues at Busch Stadium.
The Blackhawks playing the Blues is awesome, but I don’t need an outdoor game to get excited by hockey’s best rivalry.
I mean, we can sit here and act like we as Hawks fans are blessed because our team is playing in this “prestigious” game for the third time in nine seasons.
How prestigious is it really? It’s not. It’s a gimmick.
You can’t tell me you get any more interested in the sport of hockey — or that particular game — simply because it’s being played outdoors. I can tell you right now that I opted to watch other sporting events the past two times the Hawks played in the “Classic.”
Hell, I went to the 2015 Cotton Bowl, played between two schools I neither attended nor have any ties to over watching the Blackhawks-Capitals game simply because college football is more appealing to me the consumer.
See, while the allure of playing hockey outdoors in the cold may trigger some sense of nostalgia, that was never hockey’s problem. Hockey has never lacked authentic feel, not any that can be regained by playing outside, at least.
But by year nine, the novelty of the Winter Classic is gone completely.
It no longer has the pull it started with due to horrendous business decisions by the NHL; effectively diluting its gimmick game.
For one, the unique thing about the Winter Classic is that it was played outdoors, once a year. Now there are so many outdoor games played each season I’ve lost track of the names.
You have the Coors Light Stadium Series, the Heritage Classic, and the Centennial Classic (I knew the names the whole time). The point is, these are games that are played outdoors for no reason at all other than to play hockey outdoors.
Why don’t you just name it Outdoor Game 1 presented by Mad Dog 20/20? How about Outdoor Game 2 sponsored by Bass Pro Shops? Or the NHL on NBC Outdoor Game 3 pregame show presented by Michelin Tires brought to you by Applebee’s?
There’s nothing to it anymore. And the ratings agree with me.
Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports wrote this:
The 2016 Classic at Gillette Stadium drew a 1.6 rating and 2.775 million viewers on Nielsen fast-nationals. According to Sports Media Watch, this was down 16 percent in ratings and 20 percent in viewership from last season’s Classic featuring the Chicago Blackhawks at the Washington Capitals at Nationals Park. That was down 36 percent in ratings and 37 percent in viewers from the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium.
Wyshynski proceeded to give five reasons as to why these ratings aren’t just declining but avalanching. He included things like venue, quality of the game, rivalry context, rival sports being played, and more.
I completely agree with all of those.
Hockey can’t compete with NFL Sunday. It can’t even compete with a college football game, which is what it does by airing on New Years Day or January 2nd.
The Blues and Blackhawks being awarded to play in the 2017 Winter Classic is an honor the same way participation trophies are an honor. Thanks for saying my name, but I’m going to forget about it tomorrow.
Because at this point the Winter Classic is nothing more than another hockey game and consumers like myself simply don’t give a shit.