They say the secret to great jokes is timing. A few hours after deciding to write about how great it would be for the NHL to open the season with the Winter Classic, this was tweeted:
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 22, 2020
Thanks a bunch NHL. To be fair, I hadn’t envisioned a Winter Classic full of fans (given the current circumstances), rather an outdoor game that was a celebration of the sport as a whole. An event that rather than glorify the excesses (one-time jerseys, I’m looking at you) and extremes, how about a stripped back event that focuses on the sport at its grass roots.
Alberta’s Lake Louise was heavily touted as a location for an outdoor game, and although the above tweet has put paid to that idea, I think the league is missing a trick. Hockey was effectively born on the frozen lakes and ponds of Canada, so revisiting that would be pretty neat. It doesn’t have to be a series either, just two teams and 200 foot of ice. Televise the game, and make it free.
Who’d want to see the best (Canadian) teams fight for the first points of the season, surrounded by nothing other than soaring mountains. Do away with the flashing lights, the blaring music. Just 60 minutes of hockey, surrounded by nature. For once, NHL, please strip the game back to its bare bones and give us hockey at its purest. Sure, the moment will be ephemeral and fleeting, but let’s have a nice reminder of what it means to lace up the skates without worrying about all the peripheral distractions we’re so often bombarded with.
I doubt, of course, that this will ever happen; the league and its teams are too bound financially to their sponsors and other responsibilities. There has to be a profit and loss assessment, and ultimately this type of game isn’t the same license to print money that the Stadium Series, Winter and Heritage Classic games are. Still though, it’s nice to imagine.