Penguins-Capitals: Winter (Not So) Classic

The NHL is gearing up for another Winter Classic outdoor game on New Year’s Day, this year featuring the matchup the league has wanted for a while: Pittsburgh and Sidney Crosby vs. Washington and Alex Ovechkin. The annual outdoor game has been highly successful and entertaining since it began in 2008. It’s been a marketing boon to the NHL and a great forum in which to showcase the sport.

The problem is, the Penguins were already in the Winter Classic just three years ago. The league needs to get over its love affair with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Yes, Crosby is a great player and exciting to watch. But there are other teams and players who are also good and marketable and who would like a shot at this showcase event. Certainly the outdoor aspect limits the possible venues by excluding the warm-weather cities, but the league can certainly spread the game around more than having a repeat appearance by a team that was in the game so recently.

Canadian teams have been petitioning to be included and have yet to appear. (The league is attempting to appease them by adding a second outdoor game in Calgary in February). The sport was invented in Canada and there are good Canadian teams that could be appropriately showcased. Montreal, with unmatched history and tradition, or Vancouver, with the Sedin twins, are two that come to mind. Even this year with Washington playing, the game could have been held in Ottawa for a matchup of the teams representing the two national capitals. Or how about another locale with great ice hockey tradition – Minnesota? Why not the Wild against the Dallas Stars, Minnesota’s former team?

As successful as it’s been, the event will continue and that’s a good thing – it’s a great treat for hockey fans on New Year’s Day and helps to market the sport. And necessity will dictate that there be repeat appearances. OK, but how about spreading things around a little first and stop favoring the beloved Penguins.

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