Ever since the NHL first introduced the outdoor game back in 2003 with the Heritage Classic in Edmonton, New York wondered when one of these Winter Wonderlands would land in the Five Boroughs.
Sure, it almost happened in 2009 at old Yankee Stadium, but the old girl was shutting down and there was just too much construction going on. And, yes the Rangers were able to experience it as a road team in 2012 down the Turnpike in Philadelphia.
But with the Pinstripe Bowl happening around New Year’s making Yankee Stadium an impossible venue for the Winter Classic, the only way for an outdoor event to happen in the Bronx would be to move it to later on in the month.
With the Super Bowl across the river next week, enter this genius idea of having not just one, but two games at New Yankee Stadium this week to showcase another sport during Super Bowl Week.
And what a whale of a game they had today. A 7-3 Ranger win over the Devils, in front of over 50,000 people showed why this was such a great event.
“The outdoors,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “It was cold. It wasn’t a cold that could affect you. There was a little snow in the second period. Us walking on to the ice surface, the applause from fans as much from the Devils as the Rangers, it was a really neat experience.”
Unlike the Showtime spectacle out in La-La Land the night before, this was a pure hockey. The game was wide open with beautiful goals scored and even a penalty shot.
Outside of a certain future Hall of Famer wearing red, no one cared the ice was not the greatest and hockey imitated the Yankees with third base being a problem.
“Throughout the game you have moments where you take it all in, especially the second half when we built that lead and you can really enjoy everything around the rink and maybe listen to the crowd a little bit more where in the first half of the game you try to be more focused,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “It was definitely a different game compared to the Philly one where we were down to the second.”
It was what the NHL should be. And today, it was a tremendous boom to the sport.
Think about it. The league had the day for its own. There was no football on for the first time since August, so even the casual fan could tune in and see why the sport is so great.
And guess what? They get to do it again on Wednesday with the Islanders taking center stage.
Even though New York may have to wait it’s turn, the NHL should put another outdoor game in the area as soon as it can. It’s a boom to the teams which and it will help cement new fans just coming into the sport.
Because we are in a multiple venue town, the NHL doesn’t have to wait for Yankee Stadium to open up again. Maybe next time they can use Citi Field (Wouldn’t the Wilpons be happy with that one?) and maybe put the two games right around the Christmas break or even the All-Star Game.
There is so much that can be done. Today was just the beginning.
And we get to enjoy this again on Wednesday.