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Live-Blogging the NHL Winter Classic January 1, 2008

Posted by Amy in sports.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As part of their ongoing quest toward relevancy, the NHL planned an outdoor game for New Year’s Day. In Buffalo, New York. On New Year’s Day, which you’ll remember is in January. In Buffalo, New York. I really don’t understand why anyone is surprised that they have in fact forced these two teams to play a non-exhibition game—one that might have actual, real implications in the standings—essentially, in a blizzard.

Once you get past how incredibly stupid this idea is, it is, I have to say, pretty damn awesome. There is something really cool about watching a sporting event being played in the elements. And it’s not everyday that that sporting event is a bunch of guys ice skating around, trying to kill each other.

Anyway, to me, three things need to happen here:

1.) They must finish this game. If you can’t fight through the weather, don’t even start the thing. Play the make-up tomorrow. Yes, that would really kill your audience since everyone will be going back to work, but pretty much the worst thing that you can do is stop the game in the middle of it.

2.) This needs to be a good (i.e. close) game. Everyone who tunes in is looking for an excuse to turn back to college football. This can’t be a boring trap game.

3.) Sidney Crosby needs to be a factor. This would be a nice time for a hat trick, is all I’m saying.

I thought this would be a nice time to try out a live-blogging experiment…

1:00 – That was a terrible open. Completely failed to capture the magic of the premise. Reminded me of the infamous “Warrior” campaign the NHL shoved down our throats in the first season back from the lockout (Remember? The one that failed to feature any actual NHL players?). A missed opportunity.

1:03 – NBC rolls out Bob Costas to host with Mike Milbury. It’s kind of shocking he even knows who Mike Milbury is. I’m guessing NBC had an intern write him a memo.

1:05 – The shots of the stadium are incredible. The snow is really coming down. The weather guy reports it is 30 degrees at puck drop & the wind chill is supposed to go down to the teens. Um…awesome.

1:06 – Ryan Miller is rockin’ the torque. Love it.

1:07 – The Pens are wearing their throwback blues. They are okay, I guess, but they don’t look anything like the classic Pens unis. Don’t you want to show off the jersey you most want fans to buy in a nationally televised game? Also, don’t you want to make the teams look as recognizable as possible? People who are just tuning in are probably like, who the hell is this team wearing the powder blues?

1:10 – Love the new Verizon Wireless commercial where the hockey fan is banging on the glass at an infant nursery in a hospital. “Loser…loser…best baby in the world!” HA!

1:15 – Can I name another Penguin besides Sidney Crosby? Can’t say that I can…

1:16 – Sabres also wearing throwbacks, only theirs are awesome. They should wear those all the time. They look about 10 times better than the Buffaslugs.

1:17 – Crosby gets interviewed. Sucks that he is so bland. If only Ovechkin was North American. He has about four times Crosby’s personality.

1:18 – They’re singing “O Canada” even though there isn’t a Canadian team involved. Sweet.

1:23 – The crowd sings along with “God Bless America,” just like in Canada. It’s extremely cool.

1:24 – Crazy. No fans on the glass. In fact, no fans within a good 10, 20 feet of the glass.

1:25 – Ty Conklin in net for the Pens. Wow. That’s not good. I have some fond memories of the Stars beating him many a time when he played for Edmonton.

1:26 – Pens score immediately! OMG! Armstrong gets it & Crosby picks up the primary assist. Looks like the puck is really sliding.

1:28 – Panger reports that the snow is sticking now. Half an inch already. Players are saying they will keep it simple, stupid, looks like a lot of dump & chase.

1:37 – Crosby bounces the puck on his stick like he’s freaking Tiger Woods. NBC loooooves it.

1:38 – HA! Awesome commercial for Amp Energy drinks with Ryan Miller & Jean-Sebastian Aubin of the Kings having a “yo’ momma” joke face-off. Smart to debut a spot featuring current players during this game, although Aubin is a weird choice. The NHL had some good ones, but this is the best one for a product I’ve seen in a while.

1:40 – Panger reporters the ice crew was shoveling during the commercial break. Interesting that there are no ice girls. The Pens, at least, have some. Not that I’m a big fan of the whole ice girls concept, but you would think they’d be good as a marketing ploy in a nationally televised game like this. Guess it is too cold.

1:43 – Thus, the relentless promotion of the horrible RBK Edge jerseys begins.

1:44 – Zambonis make their first appearance in the middle of the period. Pangers ventures comically out on the ice to show up the build-up firsthand.

1:46 – NBC shows a Sabre stickhandle in slow motion. You can see the amount of snow sticking to the puck. Just unbelievable.

1:47 – Lindy Ruff, the Buffalo coach is rockin’ what appears to be a letter jacket over his suit. So awesome, it’s not even funny.

1:48 – Some guy is patching up the ice on his hands and knees with his bare hands. Wow. Worst job ever.

1:59 – Great save by Conklin. “Holy…man!” says Doc Emerick. Hmm. Confusing.

2:02 – Conklin tries to leave the crease to handle the puck. Everyone is terrified.

2:07 – End of the first. Good period, spirited. NBC has shown the highlight of Crosby stickhandling the puck like Tiger about 45 times already.

2:10 – Milbury reports that the snow has stopped & the NBC weather guy assures everyone that the weather will be better in the second.

2:26 – So much for that. Now it’s sleeting. Awesome. Guess we’ll see just how waterproof those new RBK jerseys are.

2:29 – Buffalo comes out firing & scores! Real pretty pass by Connolly. The crowd is really loud.

2:31 – Doc offers Panger a torque for his poor bald head. LOL.

2:41 – The “At the end of the day, there are two points on the line” count is up to 3.

2:46 – The announcers inform us Ryan Miller hasn’t faced a shot in 16 minutes. Damn, really?

2:49 – Panger has a ridiculous hat on now. Heh. He says the team officials were afraid for his head.

2:55 – Pens are in danger of going without a shot in this period. Two minutes to go…

2:58 – Pens manage two shots on goal before the period ends. Sabres have woken up. As much as the NHL would probably like to see more goals, I’m thinking the best-case scenario here is…wait for it…the shootout.

3:01 – Bob Costas wants to know if the hockey purist thinks the game is compromised by these conditions. My answer is no, because both teams are dealing with the same conditions, therefore it is still a fair competition. Milbury says that the purists know that the roots of the game came from the outdoor rink. I think the players who are fighting through it right now probably are a little beaten down, but really, the hockey “purists” probably want the game to succeed. This is a novelty. It makes people pay attention. And right now, the NHL really, really needs people to pay attention.

3:10 – Costas announces that the first game in NBC’s new “We’re quietly easing out of the hockey business” flex schedule is going to be Boston/New York at the Garden. What a shocker.

3:14 – They’ve taken away Pittsburgh’s two shots in the second, so that means they didn’t have any in the period after all. Wow, that’s crazy bad. Bet they come out shooting in here.

3:17 – Panger now rolling with a white beanie. He says he saw Jocelyn Thibault wearing one so he wanted one too. I wasn’t aware Jocelyn Thibault was still in the league.

3:18 – Okay, now they’ve changed it back. Two shots on goal for Pittsburgh in the second. Make up your mind!

3:21 – NBC reports that they are between snow fronts now & don’t worry, the weather will get worse closer to the end of the game. Oh good.

3:24 – Malkin shoots one wide. Oh, Malkin! I do know another Pittsburgh player. Wow, he’s been quiet this game then.

3:25 – NBC now using a crappy overhead angle from behind the Sabres’ goal. It’s hard to see what’s going on & the snow is coming down right in front of the camera. It’s now been on this angle for a good two minutes now & I don’t understand why. Cut it out, NBC!

3:26 – They just showed a Sabres player wearing eye black. So awesome!

3:31 – Doc Emerik, while NBC promos the upcoming NFL playoffs: “We spoke of Jim Kelly, he won’t be in any of these games, but we hope you will be watching.” What? Worst segue ever.

3:36 – Toni Lydman tries to chip the puck out of the zone & quickly realizes that doesn’t work when there’s an inch of snow on the ice. The Pens immediately recover & get a scoring chance. Touche.

3:45 – The Buffalo fans are awesome. They’re all standing the lower bowl & chanting “Let’s Go Buffalo” to the organ music. Such a cool moment.

3:37 – Announcers stall with some not-that-interesting stories about the origins of the idea of an outdoor game as they fix the ice again.

3:50 – Crowd shots as the dude fixing the ice with his bare hands gets back to work. Everyone looks freezing, but definitely staying in their seats. The place is packed. I have a new respect for Buffalo fans (but sorry guys, it was still a goal in ’99).

4:00 – Four minutes left & even the commentators are dreaming of a shootout.

4:04 – Buffalo takes their timeout so their players stuck on the ice after an icing can get a breather. Coming out of it, Sydor immediately gets a shot off. Aw, Syd. We miss you, but we don’t miss your salary.

4:07 – The announcers explain the significance of skating against the wind/snow. It takes the color man a few tries before getting to the snow-covering-the-visors problem.

4:09 – The announcers talk about how the Christmas cards they get from teams always have images of kids playing on an outdoor rink. It warms my heart a little that even NHL teams have to deal with Christmas card hell.

4:10 – Pittsburgh is shocked—shocked!—that one of their players gets a penalty right at the buzzer as regulation ends.

4:14 – The announcers show us their notes with blotched highlighter all over them as their papers get soaked. It’s fairly reassuring to see that they have notes.

4:15 – Ice is getting Zambonied again before overtime. Buffalo will get a 4-on-3 power play. I am actively rooting for shootout.

4:19 – Sabres clearly want no part of shootout. They’re really going after it with the power play. Big scrum in front of the Pens net after Conklin covers up.

4:29 – Shootout it is! Announcers wonder if the shooters will risk deking.

4:30 – Both goalies will defend the same net! Sooo wheels off.

4:31 – Kotalik scores! Pretty little move. Buffalo leads the SO 1-0.

4:31 – Christianson messes up, doesn’t it off.

4:32 – Connolly is denied by Conklin, then Letang manages to bounce it by Miller. It’s tied.

4:33 – Afinigenov gets denied. Here’s comes the Crosby show…SCORES! Pens win!! Could it be more perfect?

4:34 – Fireworks go off & both teams salute the fans. Classy. Watching the replay again, Crosby looks so excited. That’s sweet.

4:35 – Crosby getting interviewed…he goes right back to being boring. C’mon, Sid, don’t be afraid to show some emotion. How frustrating is he? He’s exciting to see play & when you see how excited he is when he celebrates his goals, you can’t help but like him. But it really doesn’t come off like that when he’s interviewed. Show some personality, Sid. The NHL kind of depends on it.

Anyway, great game! Great visual, great storyline, great hero…wonder what the viewership numbers are. That was a much better show than the All Star Game usually is. Great job, NHL & NBC. Nice to know you can get it right once in a while.


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