It’s kind of funny to name a two-year-old tradition “classic”, but in this case the name works. Here’s the thing: They played a professional hockey game outdoors. Last year I was in the US and watched some of the game on TV and there was just something so undefineably cool about it that I was glad to see them do it again this year. Growing up where I did, I thought skating indoors was the exception, not the rule. I used to skate occasonally as a kid, but I’ve never skated indoors.
That’s why the “classic” in the title works — everyone, especially the players, are taken back to the old days, skating as a kid. Everyone is so pumped up that the magic of the game even comes over the radio. The players were pumped, the crowd was nuts, and the announcers were having a blast saying things like “the teams are now going into the dugout for the intermission.” The game was at Wrigley Field, a baseball venue that itself has a lot of history.
Cool thing that may matter only to me: After the game, the players stayed on the ice and shook hands. This usually only happens at the end of a playoff series, but it was just a mark of how special this game was that the players decided to add a little more to the tradition. You know from now on the Winter Classic will end with the teams shaking hands.
For a league that seems to do everything wrong, they got this one completely right.
Apologies to Squirrley Joe; I was pulling for the resurgent Blackhawks. They lost, but I thought their radio play-by-play guy was awesome. No gimmicks, but never at a loss for the perfect verb to describe exactly how the puck was handled. And when he said “Shot!” it made my heart stop beating until he told me the result. He’s got to be in my top three favorite hockey play-by-play guys, and that has to be the most difficult job in sports announcing.