Like many a Canadian lad I recall playing outdoor hockey in the elements – snow and wind. Natural ice that had to be shoveled after a snowfall, no lines or dots painted, a relaxed no-rules game. To this day the sound of a puck smacking the boards of an outdoor skating rink on a crisp winter evening is about as iconic a Canadian sound to me as someone asking for a ‘double double’ – or here in Quebec a ‘deux deux’ – at Tim Horton’s. Kids skating and shouting in the cold air as they portray their favorite NHL players is a timeless phenomenon.
While the notion of an afternoon game under a winter sun may seem romantic and even nostalgic, I suggest it be left for exhibition games.
But let’s leave it for the local folks, not the NHL. The league’s recent infatuation with outdoor “Classics” is lost on me. Why anyone would pay to sit in sub-zero weather in a football stadium to watch a hockey game just doesn’t add-up. Football and baseball stadiums (stadia) were built for football and baseball, allowing fans to get as close as possible to the action. When you take a gigantic football stadium and plunk a hockey rink in the middle it’s about a $12 cab ride from most fans. So much for intimacy. The new NHL arenas allow fans to get right up close and enjoy the action, all while staying warm.
I understand that these events afford the NHL an opportunity to go hoopla crazy with old-timers games and marketing galore. T-shirts, pucks, any souvenir you can imagine are on sale to mark the ‘Classic’ occasion. But lost in that miasma is an actual hockey game played not by kids but by highly paid professionals. While the notion of an afternoon game under a winter sun may seem romantic and even nostalgic, I suggest it be left for exhibition games. Let these pros do what they do best under the best possible conditions. God forbid an injury should occur because a player was blinded by the sun in his eyes.