|Me in the Crowd at Winter Classic|
Thanks to my pals Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell who are Sabre season ticket holders, they were able to secure tickets for my friend the King and I to see this unique event.
The experience that day was priceless. Despite not feeling our best, we still braved the elements on this day to see hockey history in the making. With snow falling during the game, the ice needed to be repaired numerous times but that didn't stop the game from being a big hit. A record crowd of 71,000 were on hand to witness it.
The game wound up being decided in a shootout as the Penguins beat the Sabres, 2-1 as Sidney Crosby scored the game winner.
On January 1, 2009 the NHL decided to do another Winter Classic. This time they chose Wrigley Field in Chicago as the site of the event. The Chicago Blackhawks took on their original six rival, the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately I didn't get to witness this one in person. I did watch it on TV with deep regret.
Since the game was at a smaller venue, the ticket prices were rather pricey. That coupled with the fact I live in NYC, it's a long drive to Chicago and mother nature can always play her tricks. In addition, my friend the King who happens to be a Red Wing fan thought he was going to have to work so we decided it was better not to go.
Ironically we met up with Andrew Van Cleve a few years ago when we visited Chicago. He was at that Winter Classic. I wish we knew each other then.
As for the game that day, the Red Wings beat the hometown Blackhawks, 6-4 in the highest scoring Winter Classic game.
On January 1, 2010, the tradition continued. This time the Winter Classic was played at Fenway Park in Boston as the Philadelphia Flyers invaded Beantown to play the Bruins.
Once again the King and I decided to go. We wound up buying tickets at the last minute on Craiglist because we were concerned about the weather.
Thankfully mother nature cooperated. It turned out to be a beautiful winter day. The temperature was a comfortable 36 degrees which made for a wonderful setting. We had the privilege of sitting towards the back of the grandstand near first base which was the corner of the rink. We had the Green Monster staring us right in the face.
As for the game, the Flyers lead 1-0 into the third period. Late in the period, the Bruins evened the score at one. This one was decided in overtime as the Bruins found the net in the extra session as they sent the natives home happy, 2-1. It should be noted their were a number of Flyer fans in attendance as well who had a long ride home after the loss.
As for the King and I, since we didn't have a real rooting interest so we got to enjoy the outcome regardless of who won.
On January 1, 2011, the Winter Classic returned to a bigger venue. This one was played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh which is the home of the Steelers. The Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals.
This game was originally scheduled to start at 1PM like the others. Unfortunately mother nature was up to her tricks again. This time the temperature was in the 40's and rain was expected. With that being said, they decided that with the rain suppose to clear out by the evening, they changed the starting time to 8PM. By doing so, this turned out to be the first Winter Classic in prime time.
As for the King and I, we got to go again. This time our friend Peter Agnew who has season tickets for the Capitals said he didn't want to go. He asked us if we wanted to buy the tickets he was offered. We instantly told him yes.
We wound up sitting in the upper level with other Capital fans. They did a nice job distributing the tickets for this game. It seemed like every other section was divided by each team's fans. By doing that it made for a fair view for everybody who was able to be part of this unique experience. They drew a crowd of 68,000.
As for the game, the hometown Penguins came up short as the Capitals won, 3-1.
This year New Year's Day came out on a Sunday. With that being said, the NHL decided to move their Winter Classic game to Monday, January 2nd instead.
This time they went back to the baseball park setting as they chose to have the Philadelphia Flyers host the game at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies. The Flyers played the New York Rangers in the latest installment of the Classic. The game was scheduled to start at 1PM but since the weather conditions weren't ideal they decided to move the starting time to 3PM.
The King and I once again got to take part in the festivities. We were also joined by our friend Andrew Van Cleve who recently moved to Philadelphia.
The King and I got tickets with the help of season ticket holders that we know. Andrew found a person on Craigslist who sold him a ticket for face value.
Surprisingly it seemed like their were a lot more Flyer fans than Ranger fans at the game. We happened to be sitting around a lot of Flyer fans. There were a lot of people dressed up in their Flyer colors throughout the ballpark.
Don't get me wrong, there were a good number of Ranger fans in the building but with the ticket prices being really pricey I think that prevented some people from going to the game.
The experience is different than seeing a hockey game indoors. The outdoor game makes for a once in a lifetime scenario for those who have some spare money to burn. If you like the game of hockey, I strongly suggest that you go to a Winter Classic so you can see the experience for yourself.
As for the game, the Flyers took a 2-0 lead in the second period after there was no scoring for the first half of the game. The Rangers cut the lead in half at 2-1 after two periods. During the intermission, I ran into a guy I knew from New York who happens to be a big time Ranger fan. He said and I quote "this game isn't over yet." He turned out to be right. The Rangers proceeded to tie the game at two and then they got the eventual game winning goal as the Rangers hung on for the 3-2 victory.
In retrospect, I may regret not going to Wrigley Field in 2009 but I've been to the last three in a row. I hope to be able to keep going to see this unique event year after year. Time will tell.
If you plan to go, please take into account that many of the seats are bad. That's the nature of setting up a rink in a baseball and/or football stadium.
In a baseball stadium, the rink usually runs from across the outfield behind second base.
In a football stadium, the rink is laid across the gridiron between the 20 yard lines.
The bottom line is this experiment is working as the NHL now has a day it can call its own.
In the future, if you like hockey New Year's Day is the day you can see the sport outdoors. Hopefully they'll chose different locations and teams so it's more fair to the rest of the country.
I hope I've given you a reason to see for yourself what the Winter Classic experience is all about.
Thank you for reading and following along.