NHL Winter Classic
View of Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, during the 2008 NHL Winter Classic.
|National Hockey League|
|Founded||January 1, 2008|
|Most Appearances||2: Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers|
|Most Recent||2012 NHL Winter Classic|
|Most Recent Winner||New York Rangers|
The NHL Winter Classic is an annual event held by the National Hockey League (NHL) on or around New Year's Day in which a regular-season hockey game is played outdoors, in an area hosted by an NHL team. The first outdoor NHL regular season game was the 2003 Heritage Classic held in Edmonton between Edmonton and Montreal. The first Winter Classic was held in 2008. The event featured only American teams for its first five years. The 2014 game will feature its first Canadian team, as the Toronto Maple Leafs are scheduled to play against the Detroit Red Wings. The Canadian counterpart to the NHL's American Winter Classic series is the NHL's Canadian Heritage Classic series.
List of NHL Winter Classics 
Bolded teams denote winners
|Year||Site||Away Team||Home Team||Score||Attendance|
|2008||Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, New York (football)||Pittsburgh Penguins||Buffalo Sabres||2–1 (SO)||71,217|
|2009||Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois (baseball)||Detroit Red Wings||Chicago Blackhawks||6–4||40,818|
|2010||Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts (baseball)||Philadelphia Flyers||Boston Bruins||1–2 (OT)||38,112|
|2011||Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (football)||Washington Capitals||Pittsburgh Penguins||3–1||68,111|
|2012||Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (baseball)||New York Rangers||Philadelphia Flyers||3–2||46,967|
|2014||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan (football)||Toronto Maple Leafs||Detroit Red Wings|
The Winter Classic as a television event was presented by NBC Sports Executive VP Jon Miller. He pitched the idea to the NHL in 2004 "but they didn't find the concept workable." In December 2006, Miller found an ally in then Executive VP/Business & Media John Collins, who embraced the idea. The first Winter Classic was held January 1, 2008, between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The game had an NHL-record crowd of 71,217 fans in attendance. The success of the 2008 NHL Winter Classic led the NHL to schedule a second one for 2009, held at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, on January 1, 2009, matching the Detroit Red Wings against the Chicago Blackhawks. That game had the highest American television ratings of any hockey game in 33 years. The success of the 2009 NHL Winter Classic has solidified "the Classic" as an annual event from then on.
The third Winter Classic was held at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 1, 2010, featuring the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers. The result was a 2–1 overtime win for Boston. The 2011 game was played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals with Washington winning 3–1.
The fifth Winter Classic was held at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 2, 2012, featuring the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. The result was a 3–2 win for New York.
Weather has proven to affect the game, with the 2011 and 2012 classics being delayed due to rain and other weather. Outdoor effects of wind and sun glare may give an unfair advantage to one team, so the NHL sometimes modifies the third and overtime periods. In this case, play is stopped at the midway point and teams switch directions. This option was exercised in 2008 and again in 2011.
The Winter Classic was made a permanent part of the NHL schedule through at least January 1, 2021, as part of the league's television contract with NBC and Versus.
The 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia was not played on New Year's Day, as that fell on a Sunday in 2012 and conflicted with the NFL's final week of regular season games. Instead, following precedent set by college football's bowl games (which move their games to Monday when January 1 lands on Sunday), and to prevent a weather delay from pushing into the timeslot for NBC Sunday Night Football, the game took place on January 2, 2012. The game was played at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, reportedly would have been the preferred site, but the Eagles hosted a home game on January 1, rendering it impossible to construct the outdoor rink and other structures (the NHL needs one week for the optimum build-out timeframe). The New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2.
Following the 2012 game, media sources began to report that the 2013 Winter Classic would pit the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six matchup at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The stadium currently holds the world record for the highest attendance for a hockey game (104,073). On February 9, 2012, the NHL made an announcement in Detroit that the Red Wings and Maple Leafs would play in Ann Arbor on the evening of January 1, 2013. It was to be the first time a Canadian team would be involved in the Winter Classic, as well as the first time two teams from different conferences would have played each other during this event. However, the 2012–13 NHL lockout disrupted the season, leading to the game's cancellation on November 2, 2012. The 2014 Winter Classic was subsequently scheduled for Michigan Stadium (as consolation for the cancelled 2013 game) with the Red Wings to host the Maple Leafs.
Other NHL outdoor games 
The first outdoor game to feature an NHL team was held on February 2, 1954. The Detroit Red Wings played an exhibition game on an outdoor ice surface, in 21 °F (−6 °C) degree weather, against inmates at Michigan's Marquette Branch Prison. After the first period the Red Wings led in the game 18–0; the score for the rest of the game was not kept.
The first outdoor game between two NHL teams was an official pre-season match-up on September 27, 1991. The game took place in the parking lot of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, and featured the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers. The process of keeping the ice cool in the desert heat required three times as much coolant as a standard NHL rink. There were few problems despite temperatures that reached 95 °F (35 °C) during the day and a game time temperature of 80 °F (27 °C). During the contest grasshoppers began to jump onto the ice, where they would freeze or drown in water used to maintain the ice, and by the end of the second period the ice was littered with the bugs. Nearly 14,000 fans watched the Kings defeat the Rangers 5–2. Since 1997, the Los Angeles Kings have returned to Las Vegas, though indoors, to play an annual preseason game in the Frozen Fury series.
The first regular-season outdoor game in the history of the NHL took place on November 22, 2003, at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, when the Edmonton Oilers played the Montreal Canadiens in the 2003 Heritage Classic. A second Heritage Classic was played on February 20, 2011, at McMahon Stadium in Calgary between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens.
On May 1, 2013, the NHL announced that the Chicago Blackhawks would host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field in Chicago on March 1, 2014, as part of the new NHL Stadium Series. The league's announcement also stated that other outdoor games would be announced at a later date.
With the conclusion 2014 Stadium Series, 18 of the NHL's 30 teams will have participated in an outdoor game. Eleven teams will have hosted the 13 games. Six teams will have appeared in multiple games. Chicago and the New York Rangers will each have hosted two games. Pittsburgh and the Rangers will have appeared in three games each. Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Montreal will each have appeared in two games. Each Canadian team, with the exception of Winnipeg, will have appeared in an outdoor game. Every team having appeared in the Stanley Cup finals since 2006, with the exception of Carolina, will have appeared in an outdoor game.
List of NHL outdoor games 
Bolded teams denote winners
- The 2008 Winter Classic was colloquially called the "Ice Bowl" around Buffalo. As of 2012[update], it was also the only Winter Classic to have a shootout. It was voted the best Winter Classic in an NHL.com poll.
- The 2009 Winter Classic was the first to feature two Original Six teams, as well as the first to be played in a baseball stadium.
- The 2010 Winter Classic was the first to be won by the home team. It was also the first without Ty Conklin as a goalie and Brian Campbell as a defenseman. Conklin had also played for Edmonton during the first Heritage Classic. He played for Pittsburgh, and Campbell for Buffalo, in the 2008 Winter Classic. Conklin played for Detroit, and Campbell for Chicago, in the 2009 Winter Classic. This Winter Classic was also the first containing a fight, a bout that featured Philadelphia's Dan Carcillo scrapping with Boston's Shawn Thornton.
- The 2011 Winter Classic was the second involving the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was the first weekend Winter Classic and the first time the game was delayed from its original start time, thus the first to air in prime time. 2011 was also the first time it rained during the Winter Classic. It was also the most viewed Winter Classic, getting over 4.6 million viewers.
- The 2012 Winter Classic was the first game not played on New Year's Day, as noted above. It was the first to feature a penalty shot. Philadelphia also became the first team to lose in the Winter Classic twice.
- The Philadelphia Flyers are the only away team not to have won the Winter Classic, losing at Boston in 2010 2–1 in OT and at home to the New York Rangers, 3-2 in 2012.
Throwback sweaters 
Ever since the first Heritage Classic it has been tradition to wear throwback or retro-style sweaters. The retro sweaters worn in the Winter Classic have been as follows:
- 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins: 1970–71
- 2008 Buffalo Sabres: 1970–71
- 2009 Detroit Red Wings: 1926–27 Detroit Cougars
- 2009 Chicago Blackhawks: 1935–36 design with 1948–49 logo
- 2010 Philadelphia Flyers: 1973–74 with modern font for their numbers and a black nameplate
- 2010 Boston Bruins: 1958–59 design with brown stripes instead of black and 1948–49 inspired logo
- 2011 Washington Capitals: 1974–75
- 2011 Pittsburgh Penguins: 1967–68 sweater with colors reversed and crest logo instead of diagonal "Pittsburgh" lettering that appeared on original jerseys
- 2012 New York Rangers: Traditional sweater design in off-white with straight-lined player names and blue numbers with red trim in felt rather than drop-shadow tackle twill. Striping on shoulders, arms and tail is a variation of the ones they currently use, and crest logo a modern variation of the logo used for the team's inaugural season in 1926.
- 2012 Philadelphia Flyers: Traditional sweater design in orange with black numbers and off-white trim. Striping on shoulders, arms and tail is different from the current sweaters. The stripe design was inspired by a sock design the team wore in the 1980s.
- 2014 Toronto Maple Leafs: Toronto's uniforms will be royal blue and white and feature the distinct striping configuration inspired by the 1930s Maple Leafs. The front crest of the jersey will feature a distinct wordmark from the inaugural Maple Leafs' logo, revealed in 1927. The neckline design is taken from the sweaters worn by the Leafs throughout the 1960s and the running stitch detail on the numbers is a tribute to the Leafs' sweater from the mid-1950s.
- 2014 Detroit Red Wings: Detroit will be wearing iconic red and antique white uniforms featuring a striping pattern and arch Detroit wordmark inspired by the late-1920s Detroit Cougars. The front crest on the jersey will feature an early iteration of the winged wheel from the late 1930s Red Wings.
The throwback sweaters are very popular with fans, and teams have often continued to wear them after the Winter Classic. The Penguins and Blackhawks made their Winter Classic sweaters their alternates the next season. The Flyers went a step further and made their 2010 Winter Classic sweaters their permanent road sweaters, beginning with 2010–11. The Sabres had already been using a variation of their throwback sweater prior to their appearance (that particular season, there were no third sweaters anywhere in the league) and adopted a slightly updated version of the sweaters as their main uniform in 2010–11, while the 2011 contestants, the Penguins and Capitals, wore their classic uniforms as third jerseys in 2011-12.
The Winter Classic has proven to be a ratings success for the league in the United States and is regularly the league's most watched regular season contest (in the US), rivaling the ratings for the Stanley Cup. Its popularity in the United States led to the American Hockey League adopting a similar contest in 2010, the AHL Outdoor Classic, which it reprised in 2011. Despite the overwhelming popularity of the original Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers in 2003, the popularity of the Winter Classic in Canada is low and declining. On Canada's CBC Television network, the Winter Classic has lower ratings than its weekly regular season telecasts Hockey Night in Canada. This has been attributed to the lack of Canadian teams in any of the Winter Classics and has led to a revival of the all-Canadian Heritage Classic.
The Winter Classic has been a huge ratings success for NBC, averaging 4.1 million viewers since its inception in 2008. Four of the five Winter Classics rank in the top five most watched regular season NHL games since 1975. The 2011 Classic, played in prime time, beat out the programming on the other three major networks, propelling NBC to victory for the night.
|2008 ||3.8 Million||2.6||5.0|
|2009 ||4.4 Million||2.9||5.0|
|2010 ||3.7 Million||2.6||4.0|
|2011 ||4.57 Million ||2.8||4.0|
|2012 ||3.74 Million||2.4||4.0|
Future sites 
Due to the popularity of the event, every NHL team has requested to participate in the Winter Classic either as the host or the visiting team. Numerous locations have been mentioned in the media as potential sites for future Winter Classics, including Citi Field, Target Field, FedEx Field, Busch Stadium, Coors Field, Yankee Stadium, Ohio Stadium, Gillette Stadium, the proposed Canadian Motor Speedway in Fort Erie, Ontario, and even non-sports venues like the National Mall or Central Park.
To date, every Winter Classic has been held at either an NFL or MLB stadium. The 2013 game would have been the first edition played at a college football stadium, although a second rink was to be constructed at an MLB stadium for the series of non-NHL events that are traditionally played as part of the festivities. Due to the 2012–13 NHL lockout, the game has since been rescheduled for January 1, 2014.
Football stadiums are preferred, both for the larger seating capacity and better sight lines. However, the NFL season is either the late stages of the regular season or the early stages of the playoffs around New Year's Day, disqualifying roughly half of all NFL stadiums (the number varies; several NFL stadiums also have domed or retractable roofs, which would also disqualify them from hosting). In contrast, MLB stadiums are almost always available since baseball is in the off-season. In addition, if the stadium is available for numerous days before and after the classic, the ice can be maintained and used for alumni or college games. A significant number of the largest college football stadiums cannot be used because they are located in relatively warm climates that make it difficult to maintain a rink for the time required for all Winter Classic festivities. Even without the climate issue, several large college football stadiums also host bowl games around New Year's Day; the league needs at least one week to build the ice and several days to melt and disassemble the rink. As of 2013, as previously mentioned, all six Winter Classics will have been held between teams in an area bounded by the Great Lakes to the north, the Mississippi River to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Potomac and Ohio Rivers to the south (the area where the NHL is most popular and where the climate is generally the most favorable). As of 2012, only three bowl games—the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, the Pizza Bowl in Detroit, and the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C.—are held in this territory, and the Pizza Bowl is held in an indoor stadium.
There are also several Major League Soccer and minor league baseball stadiums with the capacity to host such games, which are out of use in late December and early January. One drawback in regard to minor and college stadiums is their generally rural location, farther from metropolitan areas. Also, most MLS and even the largest minor league baseball sites hold only a few more thousand seats than indoor arenas. College stadiums also have fewer luxury boxes and are not as modern as professional stadiums (for instance, Citizens Bank Park was chosen for the 2012 Winter Classic over Franklin Field despite Franklin Field's larger capacity, most likely due to Franklin Field's age). Motorsports venues also hold the capacity to host such events, but their expansiveness generally makes for difficult sightlines, and like college and minor league stadiums, they are also generally very far away from major metropolitan areas.
Tennis courts such as Arthur Ashe Stadium and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, although they have hosted outdoor pro basketball games, cannot host the Winter Classic due to the courts' playing surfaces (120×60 feet) being too small to accommodate an NHL rink (200×85 feet).
See also 
- Wyshynski, Greg. “Chatting with NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood about Winter Classic, cable cam for hockey, Mike Milbury and HBO '24/7'”, “Puck Daddy,” December 21, 2010
- Brink, Bill. “Winter Classic is a cool concept”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 26, 2010
- Dowbiggen, Bruce. “How hockey found its signature moment”, The Globe and Mail, December 30, 2010
- National Hockey League. "NHL announces cancellation of 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic & SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival", November 2, 2012.
- "2014 NHL Winter Classic will match Wings and Leafs". 2013-04-07. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- "Detroit Red Wings Head for Prison", The Milwaukee Journal, February 2, 1954, pg. 13
- "Red Wings Played Prison Football Team In 1954". GreatestHockeyLegends.com. 2010-03-24. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
- Springer, Steve (1991-08-27). "Ice in Desert? It's No Mirage Hockey: Kings, Rangers play in Caesars Palace parking lot tonight.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- Huskey, Melody (2008-12-31). "Kings No Stranger To Outdoor Game". Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- Thomas, Robert (1991-08-29). "1991-1992 N.F.L. SEASON; Gamble Works: Rangers Play In Las Vegas". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- "Save the Date - Frozen Fury XIII - OCT. 2, 2010 Take A Look Back at the history of Frozen Fury". Retrieved 2010-11-24.
- Caurchidi, Sam (January 3, 2012). "How the Winter Classic snowballed". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
- "Hawks to host Pens outside as part of 'Stadium Series'". National Hockey League. May 1, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-01.
- Rosen, Dan. "League changes Winter Classic".
- "NHL, Discover create 'Black Friday' tilt". November 2, 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- "What new NHL schedule means for 2012 NHL Winter Classic". Puck Daddy Blog. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- Shaughnessy, Dan. “NHL's Winter Classic makes every New Year's Day a hockey day”, “Sports Illustrated,” December 28, 2009
- "Rose Bowl among candidates for 2010 Winter Classic". Tsn.ca. 2009-01-15. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
- "Winter Classic Coming to the District?". NBC Washington. 2010-12-29. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
- Posted: 2:25 AM, January 2, 2011 (2011-01-02). "How about Central Park for next Winter Classic?". NYPOST.com. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
- Rutherford, Jeremy (2011-01-01). "Blues owner pushing for Winter Classic at Busch". Stltoday.com. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
- "Winter Classic Headed to Central Park?". Csnphilly.com. 2011-01-03. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
- Wyshynski, Greg (2011-02-12). "The top 30 future locations for NHL Winter Classic games - Puck Daddy - NHL - Yahoo! Sports". Sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
- Zwolinski, Mark (November 6, 2012). Planned speedway perfect site for NHL outdoor game, says Fort Erie mayor. Toronto Star. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Peters, Chris. "2014 Winter Classic plans confirmed, jerseys unveiled." CBS Sports Eye on Hockey. 07 April 2013 http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/blog/eye-on-hockey/22027230/2014-winter-classic-plans-confirmed-jerseys-unveiled