Introducing a Special Guest: Zakk Roberts
The other day Josh asked me if I wanted to write some stuff for “The Has Beens.” More specifically, he asked if I wanted to write about hockey. I guess, he assumed that since I live and spent most of my life in Michigan and Michigan is right next to Canada, I probably know stuff about hockey. After brushing aside the fact that he flagrantly stereotyped me, I told him I’d love to do a guest blog here and there.
Here are my credentials; I graduated from Michigan State in 2005 with a marketing degree. I currently work as a missionary with a church on campus at MSU. I spent three years in Texas during high school and my rents still live there, so that’s how I know these guys. For the past few years I’ve played fantasy football and basketball with them and usually finish last to middle-ish of the pack. And of course, the stereotype was right, I do love hockey.
So here’s the part that y’all care about slightly more than the rest of the stuff I just wrote…
For those of you that don’t know, the 4th Annual Winter Classic is taking place Saturday January 1st, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. The game is being played at Heinz Field. Yes, that’s right, Heinz field where the Steelers of Pittsburgh play .That means this game is outdoors, and I’m super pumped about that.
There have been 5 NHL games played outdoors, a pre-season game in 1991 between the NY Rangers and the LA Kings in Las Vegas, in 2003 between the Montreal Canadians and Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton, and 3 NHL Winter Classics. Per Wikipedia, here’s a cool extra bit of history about the first NHL team to play outdoors: February 2, 1954. The Detroit Red Wings played an exhibition game on an outdoor ice surface against inmates at Michigan’s Marquette Branch Prison. After the first period the Red Wings led in the game 18–0; the rest of the game the score was not kept.
Now I know to some people, having NHL regular season hockey game outside may be gimmicky, but you can’t lie, it does draw your interest a little more than a hockey game normally would, and that’s exactly what the NHL wants. Unfortunately a lot of people stereotype hockey as something for Yankees and Canucks, but it’s an amazing sport, and while there’s no sport that every single person is going to enjoy, I really do think a lot more people would really like hockey if they started watching it.
That’s exactly why the NHL has the Winter Classic. There are many casual sports watchers who will be flipping through the channels on New Year’s Day, checking out different bowl games, and as they flip through, they can’t help but notice that there’s a hockey game being played outdoors, so they stop and watch. Last year’s Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks was the highest watch hockey game on television in 33 years!!
I’ve witnessed this first hand with my uncle. They guy knows as much about hockey as Cam Newton knows about his father shopping him around… nothing at all…
Yet, last year, I was at his house and as he was flipping through the channels, he stopped on the Winter Classic and was amazed to see them playing outside. He proceeded to watch for a few minutes until the next commercial break. Then, he occasionally flipped back to the game here and there, something he would have never done otherwise.
I don’t think the game is designed to turn anyone into a hockey die-hard, but it gives you that first taste. It draws your attention to a sport, that otherwise is relegated to the lower level of sports world visibility.
So this Saturday as you’re watching MSU role the Tide or U of M getting smoked by Mississippi State, you’ll more than likely flip to the NHL’s Winter Classic. You’ll stop for a few seconds, there will be 67,000 fans outdoors at Heinz Field cheering on their team on (hopefully waving terrible towels), two great hockey rivals will be facing off, two of the league’s biggest starts will be playing; Sidney Crosby with the Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin with the Capitals, and if you stick around to watch for more than a minute or two, if your interest is peaked just a bit, then the game has done its job.
My Pick for the game: Penguins 3, Washington 2