Flaws in the NHL’s outdoor concept
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
By the time this article hits the stands, the NHL’s Heritage Classic game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators will be in the books. Undoubtedly, there will be some fans at the game who enjoy themselves immensely, and why not?—they’re at a hockey game, after all. There is one fact everyone should recognize, though: the once historical and interesting series has become nothing more than a huge money grab for the league. Before continuing, I’d like to note that I consider the Heritage Classic and the Winter Classic one and the same, especially after the most recent “Heritage Classic” game. They’re outdoor hockey games; don’t try to pretend there’s a difference between the two.
The Classic used to be a semi-legitimate show. The first matchup back in 2003 featured the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. There’s some history there and great names on either side. It made sense. In 2011, the second game as well—the Calgary Flames against the Montreal Canadiens—was a similar story. This third game in Canada though is a bit of a reach. The Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators? The inspiration is supposedly the 1915 Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Millionaires and the original Ottawa Senators, and the retro jerseys will reflect that, but it’s really just a straight-up farce. If I want symbolism I’ll go take an English lit class. Don’t try to conjure up some storyline to give two teams with no history some kind of a rivalry. Call it a regular game played outside and I’m far more likely to support it.
The draw for the Classic is that it’s a spectacle—a rarely occurring event that everyone should be fighting tooth and nail to see. However, by increasing the frequency of the games over the years, the league is slowly killing the appeal. They’re now becoming nothing more than expensive matches with poor sight lines. Ever been to a football game and felt your seats didn’t provide an adequate view of the action? Try shrinking the area of play to a small ice rink in the middle of a stadium and change that big brown football into a tiny black puck—and then charge yourself an extra $100.
The series is fabricated. I get that. But playing in Vancouver just adds to how artificial it is. A game under BC Place’s retractable roof is a far cry from the real outdoors. That said, when was the last time anyone in Vancouver skated outside (Robson Rink doesn’t count)? It’s just not done. So, to sum up this year’s game, it’s two teams with no connection whatsoever other than their cities once had different hockey teams that played in a final, playing an “outdoor” game in a stadium with a retractable roof, in a city that never gets cold enough to actually skate outside. Fantastic.