Winter Classic warrants warmer locales

Jan. 3, 2012

The Winter Classic is the NHL’s best American marketing tool.

Better than points leader Claude Giroux, who might as well be Claude Gir-who outside the Northeast and the Midwest.

Better than the RedWings-Blackhawks, Rangers-Flyers or Bruins-Canadiens rivalries.

Better even than the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That

admission may sting, but it’s the truth. Nothing captures the American

imagination quite like the spectacle of an outdoor game that recalls

childhood skating on frozen ponds.

The 2009 Winter Classic

between the Red Wings and Blackhawks at Wrigley Field had the highest

American television ratings of any hockey game in 33 years. The Rangers’

3-2 victory over the Flyers on Monday at Citizens Bank Park in

Philadelphia beat out ABC, CBS and FOX in the 18-49 category.

Imagine

how much better those ratings would have been had the NHL not chosen to

go head-to-head with a marquee day of college football bowl games.

That’s

why the NHL must make its signature event a traveling show. It’s not

enough to play the game in Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh or

Philadelphia. Those markets already love hockey.

The NHL has to take its best act to less avid hockey markets like Dallas, Denver, San Jose, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Miami.

— Craig Morgan