Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The NHL Gets It Right

73,000 fans, standing for much of the game.
A good old-fashioned lake-effects snowstorm in sub-freezing temperatures.
And a game-winning shootout goal by the sport's best player.

A perfect day for the National Hockey League, in its first-ever outdoor game played on U.S. soil.

Never mind the incessant interruptions for ice repair and goal re-mounting (who can expect the Ralph Wilson Stadium crew to know how to handle a hockey game, for crying out loud?). This match between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins was the best thing to happen to the NHL in a long, long time.

The league often seems unable to decide which foot it ought to shoot itself in. It makes a mess of discipline, adopts strange rules, and uses a scheduling strategy that deprives many fans of the chance to see its greatest stars in person.

But the outdoor match was a big winner. The fact that Sidney Crosby ended it with a sweet shootout move was just an extra cherry on the sundae. The size of the crowd, the novelty of the event, and the quality of the play had already ensured this would be one to remember.

Hey NHL, how about making this happen more often? Why couldn't it happen in warm-weather cities, too? The Sharks at Spartan Stadium, anyone?

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