NHL Ruining Winter Classic Tradition with Overdose of Outdoor Games in 2013-14

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2013

Feb. 9, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; National Hockey League alumni Red Kelly (left), Ted Lindsay, George Armstrong, Alex Delvecchio, and Kris Draper pose during an NHL press conference for the 2013 Winter Classic between Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Most of us learn at an early age that too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

When we are young, we wish we could have our birthday or Christmas every day instead of once a year. As we get older, we realize that one of the things that makes these events so special is that they only happen once a year.

When it comes to the NHL, the league hit on something big on New Year's Day in 2008 when the first Winter Classic was played. The NHL had not been known for its marketing genius, but sensed a void in the sports schedule to use to its advantage.

New Year's Day used to belong to college football, but as that sport kept adding bowl games and spreading them out in December and January, it abdicated its hold on Jan. 1 events.

The NHL stepped into the gap with the Winter Classic, a romantic hockey idea if ever there was one. By pitting two teams in an outdoor game at a baseball or football stadium, a huge throng could attend the game in a unique outdoor environment.

The first official Winter Classic pitted the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills.

With Sidney Crosby leading the way for the Penguins and the home fans roaring their support for the plucky Sabres, the game rolled into overtime and went to a shootout. Crosby scored the winning goal as falling snow covered the ice.

Not only did the fans in attendance love the spectacle, but the television numbers were boffo for a league that was used to nothing but depressing news on the viewership front.

The following year, the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field, and the Boston Bruins hosted the third New Year's installment at Fenway Park against the Philadelphia Flyers.

New Year's Day belonged to the NHL.

While the Winter Classic has grown quite a bit, one of the losses of last year's lockout was the cancellation of the event that was scheduled at the University of Michigan's stadium between the Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The NHL will apparently try to make up for it this year by not only playing that event, but adding five other outdoor games.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is giving the league a plethora of outdoor events because he thinks the fans will embrace them and make each one special.

Toronto vs. Detroit at the Big House is special, but when the NHL adds three more outdoor games in the last week of January and two more in the first week of March, you have to wonder what Bettman is thinking.

The games will quickly lose their special feeling. There's nothing wrong with any of the following games on an individual basis:

Jan. 25: Anaheim vs. Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium
Jan. 26: New Jersey vs. NY Rangers at Yankee Stadium
Jan. 29: NY Islanders vs. NY Rangers at Yankee Stadium
Mar. 1: Pittsburgh vs. Chicago at Soldier Field
Mar. 2: 2014 Heritage Classic: Ottawa vs. Vancouver at BC Place

But taken together, the spate of outdoor games are nothing but gluttony. Two games at Yankee Stadium in four nights sounds special in August, but what happens if there are rain or snow storms? The NHL will go on with the games, but just how much fun will the Bleacher Creatures have in the weather?

Even if the weather is snow-globe perfect, the two games will most likely have a sense of sameness to them.

Bettman told The Canadian Press that the NHL is doing more games because the fans want them.

"The reason we're doing more outdoor games is really what it's now doing locally," Bettman said. "This is an incomparable event and what happens is fans get connected to the game in ways they never imagined, we get new fans who, for the first time, will come and be a part of this."

Bettman is living in his own world. He may have convinced himself that the NHL and the sport of hockey will benefit from a smorgasbord of games, but what's going to happen is that a very special event will soon turn ordinary.

Most of us learn that less is more at a certain point in our lives. Bettman has not learned that lesson.

This special event is going to turn into a forced, ho-hum event very quickly.

ttman told The Canadian Press that the NHL is doing more games because the fans want them.