Flyers – Bruins Winter Classic is just what the NHL needs

In his latest column, further pushing the stagnant marketing strategy of individualization of hockey, Scott Burnside of ESPN made it perfectly clear that he believes the Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin should be involved in the Winter Classic in place of the Philadelphia Flyers.  And even though Burnside is just trying to grow the game, albeit with a strategy that has clearly maxed out its potential, he’s still simply wrong.

Since the lockout, the NHL has been shoving two players from non-traditional markets in the faces of every hockey fan or potential hockey fan in North America.  And no matter how many Hart Trophies Alex Ovechkin wins or if Sidney Crosby is the youngest captain ever to win the Stanley Cup, the NHL is not much better off than it was after the lockout.  National ratings are creeping up but not thriving to the levels they reached in the early 90’s. Teams are still going out of business and fans outside of Washington and Pittsburgh have a never-ending laundry list of gripes about how the league is run.

The fact that NBC forced the NHL’s hand in selecting the Flyers over Ovechkin and the Caps, is saying something and it’s saying it loud.  NBC stated that despite how incredible and superb the NHL tells its fans Ovechkin is,  the fact of the matter is no one really tunes in.  And there is a reason for that other than Washington being a small market.

The NHL has had legendary talent come through its ranks over the years, including Ovechkin, who is a phenomenal player on a good team.  But the game has never been about the individuals,  it’s been about the teams.  It’s been about the the Oilers of the 80’s and the Canadiens’ dynasties.  It’s been about the Rangers in ’94 and Detroit’s Swedish dominance at the turn of the century.  Sure, there were stars, but the people remember the teams more than anything. And now, the Winter Classic has returned to those classic days, with the Broad Street Bullies and the Big Bad Bruins.

“Someone ought to send those decision-makers video of some of Ovechkin’s many highlight-reel goals.” Burnside wrote, as a reason for NBC to want the Caps.

But is that really what the people want? An Ovechkin highlight show? The Classic will sell out and its ratings will skyrocket regardless of which teams play.  So why the need for a gimmick on top of a gimmick?  If the league wants to give the casual hockey-watching public a taste of the sport, there is nothing better than giving two tough, up-and-coming teams, who do not like each other, a chance to hash things out while the snow falls on New Year’s day.

The league should be promoting old rivalries and hockey that is taken personal.  Not who can score more 5-on-3 goals.

With NBC now obviously controlling the competition at the Winter Classic, for the good of the league, the event should stay classic. By not just playing outdoors, but by celebrating the style of play that got real fans into the game to begin with.

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6 Comments

Filed under 2009-10 season, Winter Classic

6 responses to “Flyers – Bruins Winter Classic is just what the NHL needs

  1. Ryan Lobb

    Extremely well said!

  2. Jim

    This doesn’t make any sense. Of course people want to see Ovechkin play, that’s like asking who wouldn’t want to see Gretsky play just because he racked up highlight reels. He had a supporting cast in Edmonton (just like the Capitals have a supporting cast), but you’re telling me that people remember the Oilers more than Gretsky himself? i don’t think so. “Up-and-coming teams”?? What team is a better example than the young Capitals (Green, Semin, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and now Varlamov in goal) who got shunned out of a game they were supposed to play just because NBC doesn’t know what they are doing. Also, it should be “Hart Trophies,” not “Hart Trophy’s.”

  3. Addam

    -People will tune into this game because it’s outdoor hockey.

    -outside of Philly, people aren’t going to watch because they’re excited to see the Flyers

    -outside of DC, people would tune into this game because of Ovechkin and the hype surrounding him

    nobody cares about Philly outside of Philly… sorry guys

    • flyer

      Dude, do you have any idea of how many Philly fans exist outside of Philly? As someone who attends Hockeygames on the west Coast. I have never been to a NHL game were there was not at least 1 person wearing a Flyers shirt or Jersey, and Kings and Ducks games vs. Philly are Seas of Orange & Black where the opposing team mascot has to run for his life. People leave Philly, but Philly fans are for life.
      And without Ovie, the Caps supporting cast is a hell of a lot less ‘exciting’. There are more star players on Philly than Washington. That’s why we got so many more 20-30 goal scorers than anyone else, gotta spread it around.
      And finally, the greatest moments in sports was voted on in Sports illustrated. The winner, the Miracle on Ice. Ask lay people who was on that team? Greatest moment in sports in recent memory and all people can remember is the 1980 USA Men’s Olympic Hockey team. It was a ‘team’ that was honored. A team made up of many different types of players doing different important jobs.
      The truth is Washington should not have even been considered to play in Fenway. Now Montreal vs. Boston… that I’d pick over the hometown.

  4. Robert

    Look, the fact is NBC has seen the ratings, no one watches the Caps outside a small audience in the DC area. The fact is Gretzky was only the face of hockey in the 80s because he destroyed records and huge part of an NHL dynasty. The NHL needs to stop being candy assed about the physical aspects of the game, b/c Flyers-Bruins… oh yes, there will be blood.

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