With the NHL Winter Classic coming up, and having just finished building my own backyard rink, it’s time to air something that has been on my mind for a while.
Where will Buffalo’s place be in Winter Classic history?
Of course, the obvious answer is the location of the first installment of the annual event. But I want to look beyond that. I think that Buffalo should be viewed as the Hockeytown that started it all.
The City of Buffalo simply doesn’t get enough credit for being the great hockey city that it is. The original Winter Classic set an NHL attendance record at 71,217 for a single game.
If you click here for the highlights from the game, you’ll notice that at most times, the crowd noise is drowning out the announcers. You know, the announcers who have a direct audio feed to your TV? You could barely hear them. There is also this article from cbssports.com detailing just one tailgating party.
Let’s look at the TV numbers from both Classic games thus far. The 2008 Classic in Buffalo did a 2.6 national rating on NBC. More specifically, the game had a 38.1 rating in the Buffalo market, compared to a 17.7 in Pittsburgh, both of which led all markets.
The 2009 Winter Classic had a 2.9 overnight rating, with an 11.8 in Chicago and a 10.5 in Detroit to lead all markets. Buffalo was third with a 10.1 rating for a game that had no effect on the Sabres place in the playoff race, nor any kind of rivalry. The only tie to Buffalo was the fact that Patrick Kane was playing in the game.
These days, Buffalo is becoming more and more of an afterthought in the event. This is despite the fact that if it weren’t for the huge success at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the NHL Winter Classic would not be putting ice on Fenway Park as we speak. And no, the Buffalo Bills did NOT play in the first Classic, regardless of what Sports Illustrated reports .