I'm usually not one to bow down to "the shield," but things certainly do seem to go dead during the week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, don't they?
And before I forget, I did a bit of an overhaul on the "Sites I Like" page. You ought to check it out. In particular, there's a new link to KEPTAE. That name, which I did help come up with, is short for "Kristine E. Parrish's Travel & Eats," which just also happens to describe what it's about. Also, as you might have noticed, yes, that would be my wife. Go check it out, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Now, let's get on track. The NHL is a bit of an odd league. It's going through a new wave of popularity, but it still finds itself a distant fourth when you talk about the four major leagues. Things aren't as bad as they used to be, when hockey was included as the fourth league almost out of pity, but it still has a bit of that stepchild image. Because of that, it hasn't always been shy about trying something out of the box to get attention. This has been particularly pronounced during the All-Star games. As far as I know, they were the first to abandon the conference or league set up, instead choosing to go North America vs. The World during the late '90s and early 2000's. They also did the "captains pick the teams" thing years before the NFL tried it out this year. I can't speak for football, because I avoid the Pro Bowl like the plague, but the hockey selection show might have been the most entertaining thing about the All Star festivities.* They also are the only major league to let their players go do the Olympics during their season. It's about the best publicity the NHL could ever hope for, even if some owners are understandably nervous about it.
*I don't necessarily mean that as an insult, but it is true that the only actual All-Star game worth watching is baseball. I'm very firm on that point.
As you would expect with a league that is always desperate for attention, there have been hits and misses along the way. One of the major hits has been the Winter Classic. The games haven't always been the best hockey, and the ice surfaces haven't always held up the best. Some people are still a little iffy about letting those games count in the standings. All valid criticisms. Even so, I think you would be hard pressed for anybody to come out against the Winter Classic. Hockey comes off looking amazing outdoors, especially in already-scenic baseball stadiums.* I love the Winter Classic and definitely make time for it in my New Year's Day schedule.
*I've written on this before. Although I would like to take back saying Winter Classics "largely fail" in football stadiums. That's simply not true. But I do think baseball stadiums make better scenery than football stadiums. Feel free to disagree with me, though. I am the guy that ridiculed the thought of playing outdoor hockey in LA. At least I was right about David West.
But then hockey has to do, well, hockey things. It works so well on New Year's Day, the front office thought. Why don't we have six of these games through the year? And thus, the Stadium Series was born. Should all of these stadiums* have gotten games? Sure, why not? Should all of these stadiums gotten games during the same season? Erm, maybe not. The Winter Classic is a great thing once a year. It's a great celebration of hockey. But once a year is plenty. The NHL comes off looking like a little kid who got a genuine laugh from a joke, and is now going to run that joke into the ground.
*For the record (in no particular order): Soldier Field, Dodger Stadium, Michigan Stadium (with some events at Comerica Park), BC Place, and two games in Yankee Stadium (sorry, Citi Field).
I mean, really, NHL. It's madness, and you should know better. Do you know why we only have the World Cup every four years? Because it would wear out its welcome if it happened every year. And by only coming every four years, it maintains some dignity* and excitement. You just can't maintain that sort of enthusiasm for something that happens that often. The Olympics work on the same principle. Sure, some sort of Olympics happen every other year now,** but they alternate between summer and winter, so it never feels like overload. I absolutely love watching short track speed skating every four years. Every other year? Eh, probably not.***
*The event itself. The selection process lost any shred of dignity long ago.
**I say it as if I remember the old system so well, but the last joint Olympic year was 1992. '92 doesn't sound that long ago, even to me. But, it was 22 years ago now. I only turned six that year. I don't remember any Olympics that year. I do remember the 1994 Winter Olympics pretty well, though, mostly because I was in second grade and we spent quite a bit of time in school talking about them. Maybe because of that, I will never, ever forget that those Olympics were held in Lillehammer.
***That's no joke. The hockey tournament is still what I will pay the most attention to, but I can absolutely lose an entire night to watching short track skating.
Maybe this was just a one year outpouring to make up for the strike year. That's all I can hope for. But ticket sales seem to be pretty brisk for all these events. I'm afraid that and the first time novelty of see hockey played in these new venues on TV will convince the NHL to keep doing these things. I've refused to watch any of these outdoor games* out of protest of the idea of a stadium series. Would I love to see these games in these historic venues? Yes, of course. But not like this. So I will abstain. And with any luck, the NHL will, too, in the future.
*Except for the Blackhawks. I will most likely watch that game, but just because it's my team, not because of the venue.
And, besides, how can the NHL have all these outdoor games and still not give one to Minnesota? What has that state done to hurt Gary Bettman so?