As a Yankees fan, I was disappointed that the NHL chose to have the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston instead of the brand new Yankee Stadium, but I’m still interested in watching the Bruins play the Flyers outside on New Year’s Day. I haven’t attended a Winter Classic yet and will always regret not getting to Buffalo for the first Winter Classic with the Penguins and Sabres. I know I’ll get to a Winter Classic someday, but since I missed the first one I might as well wait for a Winter Classic that means a lot to me or works around visiting friends and family in another part of the country.
I’m very surprised that the games in Europe are being played at the same time the rest of the season starts in the US. It seems that this change will put more travel pressure on the teams involved in the games overseas, but I guess the impact of starting the season is hard to judge. The Penguins started in Sweden last season and won the Stanley Cup. Since they also lost in the Stanley Cup Finals (to the Red Wings) in 2008, the Penguins had the shortest off season and still managed to win the Stanley Cup. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think this weakens the argument that the Ducks’ first round loss to the Stars could basically be blamed on their starting in Europe and having such a short off season. Perhaps it was more of a Stanley Cup hangover. There always seems to be one team from the previous year’s finals starting in Europe (first the Ducks, then the Penguins, now the Red Wings). The teams are chosen early enough that this hasn’t been specifically chosen by the NHL. It’s just the way things have worked out so far.
I still firmly believe every NHL team should play every other NHL team twice each year (once at home, once away), but I’m glad that the teams all face each other at least once in the season still.
I haven’t had time to closely analyze all 30 team schedules, but skimming the combined schedule, it seems like the NHL has done a better job with the end of the season schedule this season. Though I see the Red Wings playing the Flyers on April 4th, most of the games in the last couple weeks seem to be within the same conference (and many in the same division). Though no one knows which of these games will be the most important for playoff standings, having teams play within their own conference should ensure that more games that affect the playoffs happen during the last couple weeks.