Winter Classic: NHL marketing indeed, but don't knock it....

I purposely didn't write anything about the upcoming Winter Classic game to be held in Heinz field vs the Capital because I wanted to gauge the scuttlebutt; get the word on the street first. Personally when I first heard about it, I was intrigued. Though shortly thereafter my intrigue was followed by a "oh-here-we-go" mentality. I was sure that there would be mass of criticism toward the NHL for showcasing the two primary superstars in the game, Crosby and Ovechkin. And that's exactly what happened.

While I can most certainly sympathize with the average hockey fan who so desperately wants to see their team in the Winter Classic, I have to ask them why in fact they dislike the idea so much. To me the notion of having the two biggest superstars go head to head in pond hockey in front of 4 times as many people than normal while most of North America is nursing a hangover is absolutely perfect.

The concept isn't anything new to sports in general. The NFL adopted this very idea when it showcased the Detroit Lions back in 1934 as the team who would play on Thanksgiving; then later the Cowboys followed suit. Once upon a time Detroit was a marquee team lead by a young superstar named Earl "Dutch" Clark.

Likewise the NBA has adopted a similar tradition for their Christmas Day match-ups. In recent time we see the likes of LeBron vs Kobe in a Cavs/Lakers match-up. Back in the day we might see the Lakers vs the Celtics in a battle of Magic vs Bird.

The moral of the story is simply this. While there's no question the NHL has taken Sidney Crosby captive and marketed him as the face of the league, they are doing so for the benefit of the sport in general. Let's face it hockey doesn't get the national notoriety the same way the NBA, NFL, and MLB does. In order for the NHL to prove, as it were, to the casual fan that this sport should warrant the attention of with the other sports, they need to showcase the not only the best players in the league, but the leagues best rivalry as well.

Again, I sympathize with those fans whose teams have not yet had a chance to play in this unique game. But you need to realize that what the NHL is doing is for the increase and advancement for the sport altogether. Are their financial considerations involved? You bet there are. If Toronto was playing Tampa Bay the profit margin would indubitably be lower. But the NHL is a business just like any other business. And it's doing what it feels is best for the league as well as best for the sport.

People will no doubt criticize Gary Bettman for his decision in this matter just like they criticized David Stern when he first became commissioner of the NBA. But look how far the NBA has come and how popular it is today.

Go ahead, tell yourself that the only reason I'm writing this is because I'm a Penguin fan. You'll recant of your position after your NHL hating/PGA loving boss is talking to you about the game on January 2nd.

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