The Winter Classic Lived Up to the Hype

Some good, old-fashioned, outdoor hockey was the most fun way to bring in 2012.

iPods are incredible devices. They allow us to keep thousands of songs in our pockets at any given time. They don’t melt, scratch, or warp. With them, we’re able to transfer songs, download new tracks, shuffle through our libraries, and create Genius playlists. But, as convenient and useful as iPods are, every once in a while, it’s nice to revert back to the warmth of vinyl.

Yesterday, nearly 47,000 people gathered outside in freezing temperatures and 30 mph winds to watch a hockey game in a baseball stadium. Citizens Bank Park isn’t exactly a pond and the rubber puck emblazoned with the NHL logo isn’t exactly a pinecone, but the sentiment was the same. The Flyers and Rangers might as well have been shooting into tipped over trashcans during the Winter Classic.

The National Hockey League’s annual outdoor game is a tribute to the traditions of a game that originally gained popularity on frozen Canadian ponds. It emphasizes the static nature of a game that has been moved inside, regulated, locked-out and brought back from the dead. Yesterday was about paying attention to the history that was abandoned to create a game that everyone can consume.

So, while the actual game may have been the same we’re used to watching on CSN or in the Wells Fargo Center, hockey sounded differently outside. And that’s not just because the Roots rocked us as the Flyers took the ice and then again before the start of the third frame. It was the chopping sticks, the slicing skates, and the skipping puck. But, ultimately, the game was still the same.

The hometown crowd still erupted when Brayden Schenn earned his first NHL goal and gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead. New York still had to battle back from a two goals down after Claude Giroux added a tally of his own by deking Henrik Lundqvist and placing a backhanded shot on the top shelf. Then, the massive crowd, powerful winds and hoopla and fanfare still didn’t stop the Rangers from quickly turning that two-goal deficit into a one-goal lead.

A game that the NHL, the Flyers, the Rangers, the city of New York and the city of Philadelphia had been trumpeting all season actually lived up to the hype. When Danny Briere stood at center ice, the puck in front of him and half of a rink empty ice between him and Henrik Lundqvist, everyone in the Phillies stadium—Rangers fan or Flyers faithful—could agree on one thing: the two teams didn’t disappoint.

As 47,000 people stood and held their breath, Lundqvist stoned Briere. The Flyers had completed the best Mystery, Alaska re-enactment of all time and the Rangers won and doubled their two-point lead atop the division standings. But, really, that didn’t take away from the game’s Aura.

Man moved hockey inside because we can regulate temperatures and sell-out arenas a few times a week. Hell, I’ll be the first to tell you that I prefer to watch sports on my couch with a glass of Jameson or a Victory growler. But, watching yesterday’s Winter Classic in the blistering wind at a stadium built for home runs was nothing short of the treat we were promised.

Now if we can just get a Philly team to play a pivotal game in that stadium and not lose by one, we’ll be in great shape.