Takin' a T/O With BT: The NHL Winter Classic's Six Degrees of Separation

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Takin' a T/O With BT: The NHL Winter Classic's Six Degrees of Separation
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Every year that the Winter (or Heritage) Classic has taken place, there's been an indelible memory made.

When the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens suited up for the first attempt at an outdoor game, the frigid temperatures almost froze time: The legends game before hand featured some of the brightest stars from our past, the ice became brittle and cracked, and playing it under a night sky brought memories back of skating under nothing but a porch light.

But I suppose if you're looking for that defining moment, we've always got Jose Theodore's toque.

The next time it was tried, the NHL's newest poster boy and greatest hope for the future was at the forefront in Sidney Crosby as he and the Pittsburgh Penguins took on the Buffalo Sabres. With the way the tide had turned for the NHL, Crosby's shootout winner—as he dragged the puck through the snow and slide it through Ryan Miller—seemed to define the joy that, expansion worries and financial assumptions aside, NHL fans felt that their game was back.

Last year, it was simply history as the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks donned some of the finest throwbacks we've seen and took to the ice laid out in a ballpark that has seen its share of heartbreak and jubilation, but never hockey.

As the snow fell, it defined the rivalry and even how far the 'Hawks had come: From NHL doormat to feature player over the past decade.

And this year, there were memories as well.

There was the first fight in Winter Classic History involving Daniel Carcillo and Shawn Thornton. An unfortunate turn of events that lost thousands of people (Well, those of which who thought the first fight would involve Scott Hartnell) money more quickly than if Paris Hilton was their account specialist. Then again, Carcillo bet on himself so that was your first hint.

Along with that fight, there was the first overtime winner. Two of the past three games had finished in regulation (Thankfully the one in Edmonton did or else Ty Conklin may not have survived to play two more) and the other was Crosby's shootout winner. We had never seen a sudden-death finish in outdoor game history.

But it's a different reason for the memories this year; especially for Danny Syvret.

In his 44th-career NHL game, Syvret finally got on the board with his first NHL goal. On the grandest (and chilliest) stage the NHL can offer until playoff time, Syvret became the first player to ever score his first career goal in Heritage/Winter Classic history.

Say what you will about the goal (Whether it was Hartnell vs. Thomas or Jeff Carter getting a stick on it), but that's not bad for a guy who was once the most prominent defenseman on one of the greatest teams in junior hockey history (The 2004-05 London Knights), but nearly went undrafted (He was selected three weeks before he turned 20 by the Edmonton Oilers in '05).

Or someone who struggled in his time with the Oilers, putting up one assist and a minus-11 rating in 26 games for Edmonton and was sold to the Flyers for Ryan Potulny.

But for the Millgrove, Ontario native, it was more than just that goal. It was almost like coming full circle because, across the ice from him in Bruin Black and Gold was his teammate and defense partner in London, Dennis Wideman.

Looking at both of them, it's hard to fathom just what it would be like to face off against a former friend and teammate in such a surreal situation. These two were together for one of the most decorated seasons in Canadian Hockey League history, and for them to play against each other in the NHL's marketing giant is huge.

The attitude of a regular season game with two points on the line certainly wasn't lost: The Flyers went in having won four straight and wanting that streak to continue. Despite a "family day" on the ice the day before, you can bet that the Bruins aren't happy to be playing second fiddle in Boston, and want a second-straight division title.

But even with all of that going on, and the Bruins' arms up in outrage over how the goal transpired, I'd think—or at least hope—that Wideman allowed himself to crack a smile through some falling snow at his friend and former teammate's good fortunate.

After all, the 'six degrees' certainly wasn't referring to the temperature.


Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with him you can do so through his profile , or you can email him at bryanthiel74@hotmail.com. Also, be sure to check out his previous work in his archives , and over at Hockey54.com—The Face of the Game!

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