by Dave Feschuk
The regular season, let's face it, is a dreary, mostly meaningless slog punctuated by scarce highpoints. But this – even if they're calling it, rather lamely, the Winter Classic, and even if it comes with some inherent risks – this might get somebody excited about watching the NHL before April.I totally agree.
As a sell-the-game strategy – compared to, say, the league's time-wasting season-opening trip to England – it's perfect. New Year's Day, ever since U.S. college football decided the date wasn't as important as it once was, is a virtual void on the sports calendar. The NBA, clearly attuned to the off-court habits of its fun-loving employees, doesn't play on Jan. 1, presumably because it doesn't like the idea of the continent-wide staining of hardwood by projectile vomit. So it'll be a hockey afternoon to remember, which is why ticket sales have been brisk.
Cox, a compassionate humanitarian, wrote of his concern at the prospect of frostbite on the feet of forlorn goaltenders. Try socks, fellas. And don't forget that Orchard Park, N.Y., isn't exactly Antarctica. Yes, Buffalo is the lake-effect blizzard capital of civilization, that a flash flurry can have them tunnelling out of the Tonawandas and rationing the chicken-wing supply in Cheektowaga.
But Buffalo's got shovels and plows. Blizzards cancel indoor games, too. And as for concerns the playing surface is likely to be crappy, as it reportedly was in Edmonton when the Oilers played their Commonwealth Stadium tilt with the Canadiens a few years back, the ice is sub-standard in a long list of NHL buildings every day of the season. And besides: A goalie in a tuque, the enduring image of that memorable Edmonton moment, is a picture worth the trouble.