Though I still think the Winter Classic (in Philadelphia on January 2nd this year at 8pm) is the NHL’s big moment to gain fans, I also think the move to Vegas in 2009 was a good move and the NHL seems to be presenting the awards better every year. They don’t seem to know where the awards will be in 2012, but I’m hoping they get a new contract here in Las Vegas. Everyone seems to like it. The players get an excuse to come hang out and have fun together in Vegas and the fans have a great place to enjoy surrounding their trip to watch the awards and see their favorite players. Each year the number of players (along with their families and friends) attending and parties for them to attend seems to be growing. It seems like a perfect relationship for the NHL – hopefully, it will continue for a bit longer. I’m generally not a fan of visiting the Vegas heat at this time of year, but as long as you stay inside most of the time, it’s a lot of fun.
Corey Perry lost out to Daniel Sedin for the player-voted Ted Lindsay award, he won the one Daniel Sedin himself described as the “greatest award you can win as an individual” (he went on to say that “it’s been a fun life, so I can’t be disappointed”). Perry won the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded every year to the MVP of the NHL as voted on by members of the NHL Hockey Writers’ Association. The emotional Ducks’ scoring leader said it was his team that got him there. A lot of his family and friends were able to travel to Vegas to see Perry win the award, which definitely makes this moment all the more special. Perry said when he heard his name, “it kinda shocked me – you don’t really believe it.” I’m sure the accomplishment will set in after a bit of celebrating with everyone who came to Vegas to enjoy this with him.
Dustin Brown took home the NHL Foundation Player Award this year, his third year nominated. Clearly, the third time was the charm for him and his charity KaBOOM. I’m sure Kings fans were also happy to see Ian Laperriere (always a favorite ex-King) win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, for the player exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, & dedication to hockey.
Daniel Sedin (2011) and Henrik Sedin (2010) became the first brothers to win back to back Art Ross Trophies (awarded for leading the league in scoring). It was also great to see Tim Thomas get the Vezina for the best goaltender again – especially in the year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Though I know the voting takes place before the playoffs, no one deserved the Stanley Cup more than Tim Thomas the way he performed and during the regular season he did the same thing for the Bruins night after night. It was great to see him rewarded for that hard work.
On a personal note, I enjoyed seeing Dan Bylsma win the Jack Adams award for coach of the year. I think what he did with the Penguins in spite of all their injuries was truly an amazing accomplishment, even though they clearly wanted to do better than they did getting knocked out in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
If you get a chance to catch one of the re-airings of the NHL Awards on Versus or the NHL Network, I’d highly recommend it. I’m glad I recorded it, so I’ll be able to watch some of the bits I missed, due to running around and talking to the winners. Apparently, there was a USA vs. Canada part two and I’m looking forward to seeing that when I get home from Vegas tomorrow. For now, it’s almost time to go enjoy more of this fun city!
Tags: Bruins, Canucks, Corey Perry, Dan Bylsma, Daniel Sedin, Ducks, Dustin Brown, Henrik Sedin, Hockey, KaBOOM, Kings, Las Vegas, Lightning, NHL, NHL Awards, Penguins, Stanley Cup, Tim Thomas, Versus, Winter Classic
In spite of the fact that this year’s Winter Classic was up against prime time bowl games and other hockey games along with other prime time programming and all the activities people do outside of the home on Saturday nights, it was the most successful Winter Classic. The 2011 Winter Classic actually had the best ratings of any NHL game since 1975 with 4.5 million viewers. Four of the top five rated NHL games of all time are the Winter Classics and this year’s Winter Classic had an 81% increase in Pittsburgh viewers over the 2008 Winter Classic (the first ever, where the Penguins played the Sabres in Buffalo).
In the Christmas Eve Winter Classic Preview, Versus pointed out that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin had the same number of points. Of course, Crosby got his 571 points in only 410 games (1.39 points per game). Ovechkin has played 435 games (1.31 points per game). Neither of the super stars the NHL and NBC clearly wanted to highlight in this New Year’s Day match-up scored in the Winter Classic this year. Evgeni Malkin did score, but he wasn’t in most of the advertising I saw for the Winter Classic. How about you? The NHL and NBC concentrated on two players and neither of them had much of an impact on Saturday night’s game. Alex did almost score, but it was called off due to his interference with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Crosby’s first Winter Classic appearance couldn’t have been scripted much better. This year’s Winter Classic is memorable for other reasons. It’s the first Winter Classic played in prime time and the first NHL game where the players (and most of the 68,111 fans in attendance) were in the rain for much of the game. Thankfully, the Classic was still able to be completed Saturday night, but I’m sure the conditions affected the game a lot. The streak trailing the puck and skates made that clear. Most fans I talked to on my way out were still in great sprits, in spite of the weather conditions and (for Pittsburgh fans) the outcome of the game. Capitals fans and Penguins fans were even chanting “Flyers suck” on and off on their very long way out of the building in the crowds – something on which they could agree even when the Capitals had just beaten the Penguins.
The visiting team has now won ¾ of the Winter Classic games, so the 2011 Winter Classic outcome is probably not very surprising. The good news for Penguins fans is that it’s just ONE regular season game. Though the buildup is high and the event is amazing, in the end the Winter Classic is just one out of 82 games played in the regular season. The Penguins beat the Capitals in Washington to start out their 2010-11 series and the Caps beat the Pens at home in the Winter Classic. The Pens are still two points ahead of the Caps in the standings, having played the same number of games (40). Sidney Crosby is still 23 points and 18 goals ahead of Alex Ovechkin this season. I’d say the Penguins are winning the war in spite of losing the Winter Classic battle and most of their fans seemed to realize this fact.
Overall, most fans seemed excited about the prime time Winter Classic game. Many fans I talked to about the change were more excited about the 8pm game than they’d been about the game when it was supposed to start at 1pm. Clearly, the 8pm start on New Year’s Day gave fans of both teams a lot more time to recover from New Year’s Eve and tailgate. Though I know hockey is popular and fans love to tailgate, I was amazed at the number of fans who were tailgating outside of Heinz Field as I walked by. Fans obviously took advantage of the later start and partied in preparation for the game.
The game itself might not have been a great example of NHL talents, but the 2011 Winter Classic will be remembered as the first Winter Classic with rain and to take place in prime time. The prime time start was so successful this year, perhaps the NHL should consider moving the Winter Classic to prime time going forward.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, attendance, Capitals, Evgeni Malkin, fans, HD, Heinz Field, Hockey, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, NHL, outdoor, Penguins, Sidney Crosby, standings, statistics, tailgating, Versus, Winter Classic
So far this season, Pittsburgh has had mostly unseasonably cold weather. Then, we get to the day before the Winter Classic for the Winter Classic Alumni Game and it’s warm. Not too warm to play the game – everyone who played was saying the ice was fine. There were a couple puddles in the neutral zone, but they were quickly handled.
Does this weather remind anyone else of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver? I have so many pictures of beautiful flowers and almost never wore the winter coat I borrowed for the occasion after the first couple nights. The Winter Olympics in Vancouver were beautiful, but there was very little that screamed “Winter” about them. It seems the same can be said of the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. The penguins ice sculptures I fortunately saw on Monday (see below) were melting like crazy before today’s game. I didn’t check after the game, but I’d guess they were gone, since one was half missing by the time we got to Heinz Field this morning. The little bit of snow remaining Monday, of course, was all washed away with the little bit of rain in Pittsburgh between Monday and now.
This morning’s Penguins Alumni vs. Capitals Alumni is still a bit of a mystery to me. I think the game was great to see (for those of us lucky enough to get to see it all), but it wasn’t televised on national TV (I’m not sure why they couldn’t put it on Versus). I know a lot of it ended up on the NHL Network and they’re airing a 2011 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game Special on January 5th and couple later dates. The NHL only sold 10,000 tickets to the game (one side and the end zone, the first level only), saying they couldn’t clean it up enough if it had been sold out, but since there are Pitt games on Saturday and Steelers games the next day, that can’t possibly be the reason. Those who did have tickets didn’t all get in to see the start of the game (or in my sister’s case the first few goals on each side). There was only one gate (and the smaller gate, C, not the big gate, A) open to let in the fans. Heinz Field was very understaffed and poorly organized for the Winter Classic Alumni game and it’s a shame – especially for those who had never been fortunate enough to watch some of these players (like Mario Lemieux) play in person.
The game itself was a lot like an All Star game. Very little to speak of for defense or penalties and quite a bit of offense. Instead of going into overtime, as most of us thought it would, when the two period game ended tied 5-5, the game ended in a tie. Definitely a disappointment for the fans (who probably mostly wanted to see Mario score the game winning overtime goal, since he already had two assists), but probably a fitting end for an alumni game.
The Winter Classic game itself in Pittsburgh has been officially moved to 8pm tomorrow night, January 1, 2011. Hopefully, that’ll work out with the crazy weather. It should be cold enough to have decent ice and apparently they’re expecting the rain to be over by then. Here’s hoping all the weather services they consulted are correct and that the Winter Classic will still happen on New Year’s Day, even though they had to delay it. Hopefully, NBC will still air the game in all markets. The Winter Classic will have tougher bowl competition, but if my friends and family and the bowl game sales are any indication, most people don’t care much about the bowl games this year anyway. It’s great that the NHL made a decision so early and allowed everyone to find out what was happening tomorrow before going out to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year!
Tags: Alumni, Capitals, Hockey, Mario Lemieux, NBC, NHL, Olympics, Penguins, Versus, weather, Winter Classic
Before I get into the Penguins game tonight, I have to mention that the Penguins really did an amazing job when they built the CONSOL Energy Center. I enjoyed it as a fan when I was there for the first two games in October (in spite of the outcome) and can’t say enough about what they did with the press box. Though I know it’s a new arena, even Anaheim doesn’t have as many staff members who seem willing to show you the way and make sure you know where you’re going (and the Honda Center employees are BEYOND friendly, for those of you who haven’t been). They seem to have thought of everything – even a shelf behind the seats for your laptop case, camera equipment, whatever… One thing I hadn’t noticed the first couple times I visited CONSOL is that they have about double the recycling cans as they do trash cans, which I think is really great. I was surprised to see more recycling than trash, but it’s great, since most of the stuff one has there is recyclable.
As everyone knows, Sidney Crosby has been on fire. Tonight, he extended his point streak to 25 games and his goal streak to 5 games. He’s leading the NHL in points by over ten and is in the goal lead, too. He’s even near the top of the +/- stats. Between his performance and Fleury’s bounce-back to above average in save percentage and goals against average, it’s no wonder the Pens are number one in the NHL at the moment. (They have played more games than many other teams in the NHL, but they’re clearly in a good position regardless of that fact.)
The Thrashers managed to score against the Penguins’ #1 penalty kill, though the Pens got a shorthanded goal later in the game. The Penguins’ fairly low (22) power play scored against the Thrashers. The Penguins and Thrashers didn’t have a major fight tonight, but other than that there’s not much tonight’s game in Pittsburgh was lacking. Penguins fans were happily cheering as they left the CONSOL Energy Center for their cars or the local bars.
Getting to watch Crosby in person really is a treat that most living in southern California get to have too rarely. Seeing the greatest players live is never something we should take for granted. The current NHL schedule has teams in the NHL playing every team at least once, but only some teams from the other conference at home and away each season. It’s a shame, since Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar of the LA Kings (who passed the puck OVER an opponent last night to set up Dustin Brown’s goal), and other super stars in the NHL aren’t seen often in cities of the other conference’s teams. We should all get to see these players every year – even if it means we have to watch our teams get roughed up a bit by some of the best in the league.
Since the weather was nothing like the forecast said it would be on Christmas Day in Pittsburgh, I’m still assuming that New Year’s Day will work out wonderfully for the Winter Classic. I remember that there were concerns last year for Boston’s Winter Classic and that went well in the end. I’m hoping all this worrying and preparation will be in vain, since the game will work well on New Year’s Day. Preparing for the worst can’t hurt, but I’m certainly hoping for the best. I’d hate for so many people to either have to miss the Winter Classic or spend a lot of money changing flights around, rearranging travel and hotel plans, etc. Especially when they still wouldn’t be positive the game would be played on the 2nd. I think even if there’s a delay the NHL has to somehow have the game on the 1st if it doesn’t rain non-stop. Moving the game by more than a few hours could be really bad for the league’s goal of trying to increase viewers and have one game every year outside on New Year’s Day. Of course, I personally believe that the Winter Classic could be the only NHL game played on New Year’s Day, but no one asked my opinion when they planned the schedule. Delaying the game could also have bad effects for where the game will be aired, since we know that NBC doesn’t have the NHL as a priority (we’ve seen that in the past with playoff hockey going into overtime and NBC airing pre-race information on horse racing instead of the end of the game). It’s also clear that many people in the US still don’t get Versus and if they do, many of them don’t know where they can find it or that they have it. It’s certainly a lot less likely that someone flipping by the channel will randomly stop on an outdoor NHL game, like friends I know who don’t watch hockey have in the past. *fingers crossed* that it works out for a 1pm game with decent weather for all the fans Saturday…
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar, CONSOL Energy Center, Hockey, Marc-Andre Fleury, NBC, New Year's Day, NHL, overtime, penalty kill, Penguins, playoffs, power play, Sidney Crosby, Thrashers, Versus, Winter Classic
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.
Tags: Bruins, Ducks, Flyers, Hockey, NHL, Penguins, Red Wings, Sabres, schedule, Stanley Cup Finals, Winter Classic, Yankees
Though this year’s Winter Classic game didn’t have the snow or the shootout ending with the golden boy of the NHL scoring the game-winning shootout goal (or even a game close enough to make one think that it might go into overtime), the Winter Classic was a great game to watch.
I didn’t think the Red Wings would take a 3 goal lead (or hold it for over 16 minutes), but I think it was wonderful that the Blackhawks didn’t give up. The fact that they scored a goal with only 10 seconds remaining in the game made this year’s Winter Classic a lot more exciting than it looked at the beginning of the 3rd period. The Winter Classic is a great way to showcase the NHL and get those who don’t typically watch hockey to pay attention to the sport.
I wasn’t a big fan of the idea when I first heard of the Winter Classic, but they won me over. I now love the idea of an annual outdoor game. I’ll always be bummed that I didn’t go to the first Winter Classic game when the Penguins beat the Sabres in a shootout. Of course, the blizzard-like conditions in the game reminded me of why I decided (after marching at a Buffalo Bills game with the Penn State Blue Band in the winter when they had to plow the field before halftime) never to return to Buffalo in the winter. I need to see a Sabres game sometime to get to all the arenas, but I think a spring game would make more sense.
Another city I never like visiting in the winter is Chicago, but when it took me almost 2 days to get from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas this week, I was actually in three NHL cities (Philadelphia, Chicago, and Phoenix) without attending a single game (or even looking to see if the teams were in town). I stayed overnight in Philadelphia and Chicago, but couldn’t have gotten to a game. Chicago is still on my list of places I need to see an NHL game, but there will be plenty of time to get there.
As a Penn State fan, naturally the Rose Bowl was very disappointing, but it was good to see Penn State come back some in the 4th quarter and score more points against USC in the 4th quarter than any other team this season. USC had actually shut out 8 of the teams they played this season for the 4th quarter, so Penn State’s 17 points (10 more than any other team had managed to score against USC in the 4th quarter) was impressive. I’m sure they were disappointed that they didn’t get that extra touchdown at the end, but they played a good game for the most part. If it weren’t for the breakdown in the 2nd quarter, the game would have been a lot more exciting for everyone watching. I thought the Rose Bowl would be one of the closest bowl games this year, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Hopefully, the national championship game will be an exciting game to watch.
It was also disappointing not to see Joe Paterno running out on the field with the team. I really thought that unless he was in a wheelchair he would run out there – no matter how much it might hurt his hip at the moment – and be on the sidelines with his team for the Rose Bowl. He must have really been in a lot of pain to stay in the press box for the Rose Bowl.
Tags: Bills, Blackhawks, Blue Band, College Football, Hockey, Joe Paterno, JoePa, NFL, NHL, Penguins, Penn State, Red Wings, Rose Bowl, Sabres, shootout, Sidney Crosby, USC, Winter Classic