The Week That Was: The Winter Classic Was Fun

     The National Hockey League celebrated the tenth anniversary of its New Year’s Day outdoor game, now known as the Winter Classic, by holding it at Citi Field for the first time on Monday. In spite of the bitter cold the game was a sellout as 41,821 spectators saw the Rangers defeat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 thanks to center JT Miller’s overtime goal.

     It was certainly a great showcase for both the NHL, which gets a lot of viewers who normally don’t watch hockey, and Citi Field, which turned out to be almost as good a venue for watching hockey as it is for baseball.

     Because of a real estate tax abatement deal that goes back to when Ed Koch was mayor, the Knicks and Rangers must play all of their home games at Madison Square Garden thus the Buffalo Sabres were technically the home team at Citi Field.

     While there was a sizable contingent of fans from western New York State, the vast majority of the paying customers were understandably cheering for the “visiting” Rangers. Sabres head coach and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Phil Housley was asked about not having the support of “the home crowd.” “I didn’t hear anyone cheering for the Rangers,” he deadpanned.

      Sabres right winger Jason Pominville thoroughly enjoyed the Winter Classic even though his team lost. “I didn’t mind the cold conditions. At least we didn’t have any snow (a daily occurrence in Buffalo this time of year)!” He admitted that the team had a heated bench which made dealing with the elements a lot easier.

     One good thing about the frigid weather is that meant that the rink ice was ideal for players. One of the reasons that the Islanders current home, Barclays Center, has been a failure for hockey is because the ice is soft from being located right above the numerous subway lines that traverse it.

      Urbane Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was well aware of the significance of the Winter Classic. “It’s a great experience but only if you win the game,” he candidly said in the postgame press conference. “I would love to play an outdoor game every year,” he added. It should be noted that He is 4-0 in outdoor NHL contests.

      The Winter Classic had plenty of entertainment. Max Weinberg, best known for being the drummer in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, has his own combo, Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, that plays 60s and 70s rock classics by request from the audience. He told me after the game that he had never performed in such arctic conditions and that he expected “The Boss” to call and kid him about it.

     KISS guitarist Ace Frehley performed his1978 solo hit, “New York Groove” to open the proceedings. Keeping things fair, the NHL had the Buffalo-based classic rock band, the Goo Goo Dolls, play four songs during the first intermission. 

     The New Era Pinstripe Bowl, which pits the third or fourth best teams in the Atlantic Coast and the Big 12 Conferences, will never be considered an elite game for college football teams. Having said that, the game, which is now in its 8th year and is played in the middle of the Christmas-New Year’s week, is always very entertaining and draws about 40,000 fans as well as a lot of NFL scouts. This year was no exception as the University of Iowa defeated Boston College 27-20 in a game where the lead constantly changed hands.

    The NFL decided at the last minute that it did not want a New Year’s Eve game played at night so teams either played at 1:00 or at 4:30 PM EST. That left NBC in a bind because it had no football game and it was too late for them to have Carson Daly whip up his usual New Year’s Eve show which competes with Ryan Seacrest’s “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” on ABC. Daly and NBC will be back this coming December 31st.

     Former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and his wife Laura are still collecting toys and accepting donations through this Saturday which is Three Kings Day. You can learn more by logging onto .

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