NHL Week in Review (December 24-30)

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The NHL is entering the new year with what has become the traditional game for the league as they move outside for the Winter Classic.

The NHL’s love affair with outdoor games continues as the league plans outdoor games every year and continues to announce new games for upcoming seasons.

It all began with a chance to see what could happen if the game was moved outside, reportedly back to its roots.

They moved the game outdoors and it paid off in a big way for the league as they finally had a single day event that they could build.

Almost every major North American league has that one day where everything is about that sport.

The NFL has the Super Bowl as the biggest single-day sporting event in North America but they also hold American Thanksgiving as a major day for games.

In the NBA, Christmas day has become traditionally a day of basketball as the NBA puts on games while the rest of the league mostly takes the day off.

For the NHL it was a little more difficult as they are right in the heart of the busiest time of the year for sports and without a single game championship, they needed to find something.

So they decided that a call back to the extremely old days was a chance for them to take a day and own that day.

It became a New Year’s Day tradition as the NHL put on their winter classic outdoor game on a day and a time when there isn’t a lot going on.

Fans could sit at home and relax after New Year’s Eve and watch a unique game that could only be seen once a year.

It was a fun event that the NHL recognized, could be a big thing for the league and the popularity of the league throughout North America.

Then things got stranger as the NHL realized that it was a money maker and they began putting on more games than ever.

They brought back the Heritage Classic, continued the Winter Classic and established the Stadium Series.

In 2014 they held a total of six outdoor games and the events went from being a unique one-off to a part of the regular season schedule.

It wasn’t unique any longer and after losing money on the partially lost season they tried to gain it all back with big outdoor games.hockey-sidebar

The strategy worked for the short term but for the long term, the games became a lot less entertaining and interesting.

They were no longer anything special and as a result, they began to become less important to the fans.

The league continued to schedule a number of games throughout the season and the novelty of the game wore off.

More complaints about games having to take place in the elements and bad hockey being played had a lot of people souring on the idea of outdoor games.

This year the NHL is taking steps to attempt to bring things back a bit from where they were before.

Instead of scheduling too many outdoor games, the league has only put three on the schedule for this season.

The first was the NHL 100 Classic held in Ottawa earlier in December as the league celebrated their 100 year anniversary.

New Year’s Day will feature the Winter Classic in New York as the tradition continues on the day that the league continues to try to own.

The final outdoor game this season will be in Annapolis, Maryland as the NHL travels to the Naval Academy for a different type of outdoor game.

Those are the only three outdoor games this year and the NHL seems to have realized that putting on six outdoor games takes away from the experience.

The entire point of these outdoor games is that it is a unique experience for the fans and the players to play outside like many did when they were kids.

Putting on six total outdoor games makes everything less unique and not nearly as interesting as they were.

The NHL seems to have figured it out and this season the amount of outdoor games seems to make everything a little more special.

They will host games that are actually different with a celebration of the history, the traditional January 1st match-up and a game at the Naval Academy things are different this time.

Although many would prefer to see outdoor games gone altogether the league will continue them and if they remain at this level it could be a successful part of the league for years.

 

Overtime

One of the Good Ones

In sports, there are always the players that are loved by their team and hated by others whether because they are pesky or just good. There are very few players that are loved by everyone around the league regardless of what team you follow. Johnny Bauer was that type of player as the former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie was loved, everyone. He was a regular at every Leafs event over the years and there is nobody that can say a bad word about him. Unfortunately, that great personality is no longer here after Bauer passed away this week leaving all of the NHL to mourn the loss of one of the great ones.

Refusing to Commit

 Everyone knows the NHL won’t be headed to the 2018 Olympics in February but things are little cloudier for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. The NHL would not commit to an answer when it came to the 202 Olympics refusing to say whether they would allow their players to go. It is an interesting question as the NHL is trying to break into the market in China and there may be no better way than to display the game on the highest level. It would help the goals of the league far more to go to the Beijing Olympics but it would also go against all of the issues they had in 2018, while the IOC and IIHF might not be willing to bend after losing out for Pyeongchang.

Olympic Preview

 International tournaments during the holidays are always fun to watch as the World Juniors continues on and the Spengler Cup displays come great European teams. This year the Spengler Cup was a little different though as this year it featured a much different type of team. Canada always puts together a team of the best Canadian players in Europe to take on the best club teams in the region. This year that Canadian team was widely believed to be a close resemblance to the team that will head to Korea in February. It was the last chance for Canadians that can play in the Olympics to prove they belong and with a gold medal at the 2017 tournament, it could be very close to what the team will look like in a few months.

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