NHL Winter Classic

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NHL Winter Classic
National Hockey League
First playedJanuary 1, 2008
Times held15
Teams participated16
Most wins3: Boston Bruins
Most recentJanuary 1, 2024
Most recent winnerSeattle Kraken
Next gameJanuary 1, 2025
Teams PlayingSt. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks

The NHL Winter Classic (French: La Classique hivernale de la LNH) is an annual outdoor ice hockey game played during the National Hockey League's (NHL) regular season on or around New Year's Day. It is generally held in a football or baseball stadium in the United States in an area with a resident NHL team, though for most of the game's existence, they are usually played in a baseball stadium to avoid scheduling and logistical conflicts with football stadiums during the National Football League regular season. The Winter Classic is distinct from the league's two other series of outdoor games, the NHL Heritage Classic and the NHL Stadium Series. The first Winter Classic was held in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium (now Highmark Stadium) in Orchard Park, New York, between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. Fifteen Winter Classics have been held as of January 2024. The most recent game was played during the 2023–24 NHL season at T-Mobile Park, with the Seattle Kraken defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 3−0.

After the success of the Cold War at Michigan State University in 2001 and the 2003 Heritage Classic, the NHL's first regular season outdoor game, the league inaugurated the Winter Classic in 2008. It eventually caught on as a league tradition and has been played every year since except for 2013 (due to the 2012–13 NHL lockout) and 2021 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The 2014 game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings set a new NHL attendance record of 105,491. The Winter Classic has been contested only in the United States, while the Heritage Classic has been held exclusively in Canada. The Winter Classic featured only American teams for its first five games, until the Maple Leafs' appearance in 2014.

Along with the NHL All-Star Game, the Winter Classic is considered one of the NHL's premier events; with matchups generally booked to showcase the league's most popular teams and players, the event garners the league its highest attendance and among its highest television ratings. The event is typically promoted as a return to the sport's outdoor roots, meant to evoke memories of pond hockey. Its popularity has led to the scheduling of additional outdoor hockey games, both in the NHL and other leagues worldwide. In May 2014, the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily named the Winter Classic its "Sports Event of the Year," the second time in five years the Classic has won that distinction.[1]


Ralph Wilson Stadium (now Highmark Stadium), near Buffalo, during the first Winter Classic in 2008

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."[2] In December 2006, Miller found an ally in then Executive VP/Business & Media John Collins, who embraced the idea.[3][4]

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 a then-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 fifth Winter Classic was held in 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia

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, 2011, 2014, and 2018. The 2008, 2014, and 2018 games also featured the teams switching ends halfway through the five-minute overtime period for the same reason. In 2008 and 2014 the games went into a shootout, where both goaltenders alternated defending the same goal, rather than the normal practice of defending opposite goals.

The Winter Classic was made a part of the NHL schedule through at least January 1, 2021, as part of the league's television contract, initially with NBC and Versus, then just NBC after Comcast (the parent company of Versus) bought NBC and merged Versus into the NBC Sports banner.

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 the risk of a weather delay pushing the game 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. Neighboring Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, was reportedly preferred, but as the Eagles hosted a home game on January 1, the NHL could not undertake the required week-long renovations needed to construct the outdoor playing arena. The New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3–2.

The 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium saw over 105,000 fans in attendance, setting an NHL record

The sixth Winter Classic was scheduled for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor in 2013, with the Detroit Red Wings hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six matchup. However, the 2012–13 NHL lockout disrupted the season, leading to the game's cancellation on November 2, 2012.[5] The matchup was rescheduled for the 2014 Winter Classic, at the same venue with the same participants.[6] It was the first time a Canadian team participated in the Winter Classic. An NHL-record total of 105,491 tickets were sold, greater than the Guinness World Records-certified world-record attendance of 104,173 at The Big Chill at the Big House, also held at Michigan Stadium.[7] However, on January 24, 2014, an NHL source reported that the certified attendance, based on tickets scanned at the venue, fell short of the world record.[8]

In 2017, the Winter Classic was the second of two outdoor games to be held over the New Year's weekend, with the NHL Centennial Classic being held in Toronto on January 1 and the Winter Classic following on January 2. The St. Louis Blues defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by the score of 4–1, scoring 3 goals in the third period.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first Winter Classic, the NHL announced on May 10, 2017, that the Buffalo Sabres would take part in the 2018 game against the New York Rangers at Citi Field. Due to a 1982 agreement with New York City and state tax laws that give their home arena Madison Square Garden tax-exempt status, the Rangers must not "cease playing" home games at MSG (which is generally interpreted as meaning playing a home game at any other venue), and thus Rangers hosted the game but played as the visiting team. The arrangement gave the Sabres only 40 games for the 2017–18 season in their home city of Buffalo, while the Rangers played 42 games (not counting away games against the New York Islanders) in New York City. The NHL had used a similar policy for the Rangers in the 2014 Stadium Series and the 2011 NHL Premiere.[9][10][11] The game was played on January 1, 2018.

The 2019 Winter Classic was hosted at Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana.

On November 18, 2017, the NHL announced that the Chicago Blackhawks would host the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic scheduled for January 1, 2019. The game was played at Notre Dame Stadium, in Notre Dame, Indiana, and was the first instance of a Winter Classic being played in a different state and media market than the host team—the stadium is located less than 100 mi (160 km) from Chicago but is served by television stations in South Bend.[12]

The NHL announced on January 26, 2019, that the Dallas Stars would host the Nashville Predators in the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.[13] It would be the first Winter Classic to take place at a warm-climate city and the first outdoor game for both the Predators and Stars. The Stars won the game 4–2 in front of 85,630 fans, the second largest attendance in an NHL game behind the 2014 Winter Classic.[14]

The league originally announced on January 1, 2020, that the 2021 NHL Winter Classic would feature the Minnesota Wild at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.[15] The league later confirmed the St. Louis Blues as the opponent. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the conclusion of the 2019–20 season to September and postponing the start of the following season, the event was moved to 2022 at its earliest.[16] With a temperature of -5.7 °F at puck drop, the 2022 Winter Classic became the coldest outdoor game in NHL history as the Blues won 6–4.[17]

In 2021, the NHL ended its relationship with NBC and signed new agreements with ESPN and TNT. As ESPN has a full slate of college bowl games on New Year's Day, TNT will hold rights to the Winter Classic throughout the entire broadcast contract.[18]

On February 4, 2022, the NHL announced that Fenway Park would be the site of the 2023 NHL Winter Classic. As a result, Fenway Park became the third outdoor stadium to host multiple outdoor games, and the first to host two Winter Classics. On April 13, 2022, the Penguins were announced as the opponent with the game being held on January 2 (as January 1, 2023, falls on Sunday).[19][20] The Bruins won the game, 2–1.[21]

On January 2, 2023, the day of the 2023 Winter Classic, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced on the game's pregame show that the Seattle Kraken would host the 2024 edition of the Winter Classic at T-Mobile Park, playing against the Vegas Golden Knights. This was the first Winter Classic to be held on the American West Coast and the first between Pacific Division opponents.[22] This was also be the first Winter Classic, and the second NHL outdoor game, to take place in a retractable roof stadium.[a] Due to Seattle's rainy climate that may affect ice conditions, organizers planned on closing the T-Mobile Park roof in case of heavy rainfall.[23] The game ended with the Kraken becoming the first team to earn a shutout in a Winter Classic, defeating the Golden Knights 3–0.

On February 7, 2024, it was announced that the 2025 NHL Winter Classic will take place at Wrigley Field in Chicago, with the Chicago Blackhawks facing the St. Louis Blues. Wrigley Field joined Fenway Park as the only two-time hosts of a Winter Classic, and it will also mark the first repeat matchup in a Winter Classic, with the Blackhawks and Blues previously facing off at Busch Stadium in 2017.[24]

Possible future sites[edit]

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. While proposals have been made for nearly every outdoor National Football League (NFL) stadium to host, with the end of the NFL season taking place at the same time of the Winter Classic followed by the NFL Playoffs starting the following week, in order to host the game the stadium's NFL team would have to play a Thursday Night Football game in Week 16 followed by an away game in Week 17 to even consider the possibility of hosting (as was the case for the 2011 game). Stadiums with natural grass fields such as Acrisure Stadium have already ruled out this possibility as there would be no time to resod the field or correct any other field damage caused by the game. The tight timeline would also rule out the ability for other support events such as alumni games or local college/lower level hockey games as the rink would have to be de-constructed immediately after the Winter Classic to ensure venue availability for NFL Playoff games.

While some NCAA College Football stadiums are unavailable to host due to already existing bowl games, most of these games are held in warmer weather climates opening up the possibility of the largest Big Ten Conference Stadiums such as Michigan Stadium (which hosted in 2014), Ohio Stadium, Beaver Stadium, and other large stadiums such as Notre Dame Stadium (which hosted in 2019). Most Major League Soccer soccer specific stadiums have seating capacities significantly lower than the other available facilities. With Major League Baseball (MLB) in its offseason and with few other uses for its stadiums during winter, more MLB stadiums have hosted than other type of venue and are expected to be contenders for hosting most future Winter Classics.

Non-sports venues like the National Mall or Central Park have also been proposed, but present logistical challenges the league is unlikely to want to overcome given the other options available. [25][26][27][28]

List of NHL Winter Classics[edit]

Year Venue Sport of venue Primary team at venue Location Visiting team Home team Score Attendance
2008 Ralph Wilson Stadium Football Buffalo Bills Orchard Park, NY Pittsburgh Penguins Buffalo Sabres 2–1 (SO) 71,217
2009 Wrigley Field Baseball Chicago Cubs Chicago, IL Detroit Red Wings Chicago Blackhawks 6–4 40,818
2010 Fenway Park Baseball Boston Red Sox Boston, MA Philadelphia Flyers Boston Bruins 1–2 (OT) 38,112
 2011  Heinz Field Football Pittsburgh Steelers Pittsburgh, PA Washington Capitals Pittsburgh Penguins 3–1 68,111
2012 Citizens Bank Park Baseball Philadelphia Phillies Philadelphia, PA New York Rangers Philadelphia Flyers 3–2 46,967
2013 Michigan Stadium College football Michigan Wolverines Ann Arbor, MI Toronto Maple Leafs Detroit Red Wings Postponed to January 2014 due to the lockout
2014 Michigan Stadium College football Michigan Wolverines Ann Arbor, MI Toronto Maple Leafs Detroit Red Wings 3–2 (SO) 105,491
2015 Nationals Park Baseball Washington Nationals Washington, D.C. Chicago Blackhawks Washington Capitals 2–3 42,832
2016 Gillette Stadium Football New England Patriots Foxborough, MA Montreal Canadiens Boston Bruins 5–1 67,246
2017 Busch Stadium Baseball St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis, MO Chicago Blackhawks St. Louis Blues 1–4 46,556
2018 Citi Field Baseball New York Mets Queens, NY New York Rangers Buffalo Sabres 3–2 (OT) 41,821
2019 Notre Dame Stadium College football Notre Dame Fighting Irish South Bend, IN Boston Bruins Chicago Blackhawks 4–2 76,126
2020 Cotton Bowl College football Red River Showdown Dallas, TX Nashville Predators Dallas Stars 2–4 85,630
2021 Target Field Baseball Minnesota Twins Minneapolis, MN St. Louis Blues Minnesota Wild Postponed to January 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2022 Target Field Baseball Minnesota Twins Minneapolis, MN St. Louis Blues Minnesota Wild 6–4 38,519
2023 Fenway Park Baseball Boston Red Sox Boston, MA Pittsburgh Penguins Boston Bruins 1–2 39,243
2024 T-Mobile Park Baseball Seattle Mariners Seattle, WA Vegas Golden Knights Seattle Kraken 0–3 47,313
2025 Wrigley Field Baseball Chicago Cubs Chicago, IL St. Louis Blues Chicago Blackhawks TBD TBD
  • Bolded teams denote winners
  • All games played on New Year's Day, except for 2012, 2017, and 2023, which were played on January 2 due to New Year's Day falling on a Sunday.[19]


Team Appearances Last Wins Losses
Boston Bruins 4 2023 3 1
Chicago Blackhawks 4 2019 0 4
Pittsburgh Penguins 3 2023 1 2
St. Louis Blues 2 2022 2 0
New York Rangers 2 2018 2 0
Washington Capitals 2 2015 2 0
Detroit Red Wings 2 2014 1 1
Buffalo Sabres 2 2018 0 2
Philadelphia Flyers 2 2012 0 2
Dallas Stars 1 2020 1 0
Montreal Canadiens 1 2016 1 0
Toronto Maple Leafs 1 2014 1 0
Seattle Kraken 1 2024 1 0
Minnesota Wild 1 2022 0 1
Nashville Predators 1 2020 0 1
Vegas Golden Knights 1 2024 0 1

Winning and losing teams[edit]

Teams Win Loss Total Year(s) won Year(s) lost
Boston Bruins 3 1 4 2010, 2019, 2023 2016
Buffalo Sabres 0 2 2 2008, 2018
Chicago Blackhawks 0 4 4 2009, 2015, 2017, 2019
Dallas Stars 1 0 1 2020
Detroit Red Wings 1 1 2 2009 2014
Minnesota Wild 0 1 1 2022
Montreal Canadiens 1 0 1 2016
Nashville Predators 0 1 1 2020
New York Rangers 2 0 2 2012, 2018
Philadelphia Flyers 0 2 2 2010, 2012
Pittsburgh Penguins 1 2 3 2008 2011, 2023
Seattle Kraken 1 0 1 2024
St. Louis Blues 2 0 2 2017, 2022
Toronto Maple Leafs 1 0 1 2014
Vegas Golden Knights 0 1 1 2024
Washington Capitals 2 0 2 2011, 2015

Throwback sweaters[edit]

Teams often wear throwback, or retro-styled sweaters for the Winter Classic

For the Winter Classic, participating teams typically wear throwback, or retro-style sweaters, and occasionally retro-styled equipment. The throwback sweaters are 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 following 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 Capitals continued to do so through the 2014–15 season, the same year the Flyers adopted their 2012 Winter Classic sweaters as their third jerseys.

  • 2008
    • Pittsburgh Penguins: 1970–71, worn as a third jersey from 2008 to 2011
    • Buffalo Sabres: 1983–84, a modernized version was released in 2021
  • 2009
Fans on stilts adorned in the sweaters used for the 2009 Winter Classic
    • Detroit Red Wings: 1926–27 Detroit Cougars
    • Chicago Blackhawks: 1935–36 design with 1948–49 logo, worn as a third jersey from 2009 to 2011
  • 2010
    • Philadelphia Flyers: 1973–74 with modern font for their numbers and a black nameplate, became permanent road jersey the following season.
    • Boston Bruins: 1958–59[29] design with brown stripes instead of black, and 1948–49 inspired logo (the original form of the "spoked-B" logo).
  • 2011
    • Washington Capitals: 1974–75, worn as a third jersey from 2011 to 2015
    • Pittsburgh Penguins: 1967–68 sweater with colors reversed and crest logo instead of diagonal "Pittsburgh" lettering that appeared on original jerseys, worn as a third jersey from 2011 to 2013
  • 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.[30]
    • 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. Worn as a third jersey from 2014 to 2016.
  • 2014
    • Toronto Maple Leafs: Toronto's uniforms were royal blue and white and featured the distinct striping configuration inspired by the 1930s Maple Leafs. The front crest of the jersey featured 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.[31]
    • Detroit Red Wings: Detroit wore 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 featured an early iteration of the winged wheel from the late 1930s Red Wings.[31]
  • 2015
During the 2015 Winter Classic, the Chicago Blackhawks wore throwback sweaters, whereas the Washington Capitals wore a retro-styled sweater
    • Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago's jerseys were based on their 1957 jerseys, white with red and black striping on the bottom, lace-up collars and the tomahawk logo near the elbows.[32]
    • Washington Capitals: While the Capitals' uniforms were not technically "throwbacks" because they represented a new uniform not previously worn by the team, they were a combined look back at hockey in D.C.[33] Washington wore red sweaters (in a darker shade of red than the team's normal uniforms) with white stripes atop the shoulders and along the bottom, the front featuring the team's name in white over a large blue 'W', with the center of the 'W' stylized like the Washington Monument.[34]
  • 2016
    • Montreal Canadiens: Montreal's jerseys were based on the one they wore for the 1924–25 season. Having won the Stanley Cup the precedent season, the first in the team's history as a member of the NHL, the team put a globe with the word "Champions" under it. Since 1922, the team was using their classic CH logo with inverted colors (the C in white and the H in red): that logo was moved on both arms for the 1924–25 season. For the Winter Classic, the CH logo was put back as the team's crest while the globe moved on the arms. As for the jersey's colors, they traded place from the original version, the red becoming white and the white becoming red, similar to a jersey worn by the team between 1944 and 1947.[35]
    • Boston Bruins: Boston also used a jersey based on the one they wore for the 1924–25 season, their first in the NHL. The jersey is identical to the one used that season, except for the fact that it is black instead of brown as it originally was. Worn as a third jersey in the 2016–17 season.[35]
  • 2017
    • Chicago Blackhawks: The jerseys from the 2015 Winter Classic returned for 2017. Chicago's jerseys were based on their 1957 jerseys, white with red and black stripping on the bottom, lace-up collars and the tomahawk logo near the elbows.[36]
    • St. Louis Blues: St. Louis' uniforms were based on the inaugural 1967–68 home jersey. The jerseys feature historically accurate fonts and team striping, a ribbed crewneck collar, the vintage blue color and the original Blue Note crest from the first season. Worn as a third jersey since 2018.[36]
  • 2018
    • Buffalo Sabres: 1970s design and colors, with no gold trim on numbers and a small "NY" initial at the bottom of the logo. The "Buffalo" wordmark from the Buffalo Bisons-inspired throwbacks from 2010 is included on the helmet, and a new shoulder crest (a buffalo filled with the word "Sabres") was added.[37]
    • New York Rangers: Rangers' jerseys were based on their 1926–27 jerseys from their inaugural season.[38]
  • 2019
    • Boston Bruins: The brown and gold jersey with heritage materials and striping that pays homage to the 1930s era uniform. Highlighting the throwback look, the jersey features the throwback “B” logo.[39]
    • Chicago Blackhawks: black and white uniform that pays homage to the 1934 Blackhawks along with a Blackhawks crest featuring a combination of felt letters and chain stitching. Worn as a "Heritage" jersey for select games from 2019 to 2021.[40]
  • 2020
  • 2022
    • St. Louis Blues: Vintage white version of 2017 Winter Classic uniform, modeled after the 1967–68 road uniforms.[43]
    • Minnesota Wild: Green, red and wheat jersey inspired by various early Minnesota hockey teams.[44]
  • 2023
    • Pittsburgh Penguins: Vintage white uniform with black stripes and gold "P" logo taken from the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates uniforms.[45]
    • Boston Bruins: Black uniform with gold stripes and vintage white text. "BOSTON" arched wordmark inspired by the original "Spoked B" logo worn in 1949, and the original bear head logo from 1977 to 1995 was added.[45]
  • 2024
    • Vegas Golden Knights: Vintage white uniform with gold stripes, and stylized gray "V" logo. As Las Vegas did not have a deep history of ice hockey, the Golden Knights went with a faux-back uniform from 1917.[46]
    • Seattle Kraken: Dark blue uniform with ice blue and vintage white stripes. Red "S" with team name in front. Uniform based on the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans.[46]


Television ratings[edit]

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.

The 2014 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs had a television viewership in the U.S. and Canada of 8.2 million television viewers, a North American record for a regular season game; in addition to setting an NHL-record paid attendance of 105,491.[47] Sportsnet's Chris Johnston said, "The feeling when the players walked into the 87-year-old stadium in front of more than 100,000 fans was truly something special. The biggest and best Winter Classic of them all lived up to its advanced billing." The game went down to the wire, ending in a 3–2 Toronto victory in a shootout.[48]


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 not as high as it is in the United States. 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 both the revival of the all-Canadian Heritage Classic and the scheduling of the Maple Leafs in the 2014 Winter Classic and the Canadiens in the 2016 edition. Nevertheless, the Winter Classic continues to air on Canadian television, but since 2016 the games are moved to Sportsnet. In addition, Sportsnet elected to simulcast the American broadcast feed of the Winter Classic as opposed to sending their own broadcast crews, except when a Canadian team is involved (as was the case in the 2016 Winter Classic featuring the Canadiens).

United States[edit]

A television camera and media personnel at the 2015 Winter Classic. The event became the NHL most watched regular season game in the United States.

The Winter Classic games ranked among the most watched regular season NHL games on NBC when the network held the national U.S. broadcast rights from 2005 to 2021. Early entries in the Winter Classic ranked among the highest ratings for professional hockey in the U.S. since the 1970s, prior to that, the highest rating for an NHL game since then had been Wayne Gretzky's final game, which aired on Fox in 1999. Winter Classic viewership peaked in 2011 (due to it being rescheduled to primetime) and, with the exception of one-year bumps in 2014 and 2019, has been in a mostly steady decline since then.

TNT holds the rights to televise the Winter Classic from 2022 to 2028. The 2022 game thus became the first time that the Winter Classic aired exclusively on American cable television. 1.36 million people watched the game on TNT and it earned a 0.6 rating. This rating was a decline of 48% from the 2019 edition. However, the game had the widest audience in history of any NHL regular season game broadcast on cable.[49] This was surpassed by the 2024 Winter Classic, which was viewed by only 1.1 million people (0.4 rating) combined on TNT and truTV.[50]

  Year   Rating Viewers Network Ref(s)
2008 2.2 3.75 million NBC [51]
2009 2.5 4.40 million NBC [51]
2010 2.1 3.68 million NBC [51]
2011 2.3 4.50 million NBC [51]
2012 2.1 3.73 million NBC [51]
2014 2.5 4.40 million NBC [51]
2015 1.9 3.47 million NBC [51]
2016 1.6 2.78 million NBC [51]
2017 1.5 2.56 million NBC [52]
2018 1.4 2.48 million NBC [53]
2019 1.9 2.97 million NBC [54]
2020 1.1 1.96 million NBC [55]
2022 0.6 1.36 million TNT [49]
2023 0.6 1.77 million TNT [56]
2024 0.4 1.1 million TNT

Documentary series[edit]

In 2010, the NHL and HBO announced a four-part documentary series as part of the build-up to the 2011 Winter Classic. The series, entitled 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, gave HBO exclusive access to the teams that were participating in the game.[57] HBO went on to air two more editions in 2012 and 2014.[58][59]

For the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Winter Classics, the NHL partnered with Epix to air another series of four-part documentaries. The first two editions carried the Road to the NHL Winter Classic brand,[60][61] but the 2017 edition was retitled Road to the NHL Outdoor Classics with the inclusion of the NHL Centennial Classic as part of the buildup.[62]

Starting with the 2018 Winter Classic, the NHL opted to distribute the Road to the NHL Winter Classic series to its broadcast partners. In addition, each episode was made available on NHL.com and the league's social media pages.[63][64][65]

From 2010 to 2020, episodes of the series were produced by Ross Greenburg in conjunction with the NHL. Beginning in 2021, NHL Studios will oversee production of the series, with Steve Mayer as executive producer, and Jay Nelson and Steve Stern as producers.[66]

For the 2022 edition, the Road to the Winter Classic was aired as a five or eight-minute segment on the NHL on TNT postgame show as opposed to a standalone episode during the Greenburg era. Unlike previous seasons, the season finale did not include highlights of the Winter Classic itself. Each episode was made available on the Bleacher Report YouTube page.[67]

The Road to the Winter Classic series did not return for the 2023 edition, but in 2024, the NHL resumed producing four half-hour episodes of the series, albeit without the highlights from the game itself. The series was produced by Radan Films and NHL Productions.[68]


Its popularity in the United States led to the American Hockey League adopting a similar contest in 2010, the AHL Outdoor Classic, which it continued to organize each season through 2017–18. Both the Winter Classic and the earlier Cold War contest helped repopularize outdoor hockey at the college and university level, and several college organizations, minor and junior hockey leagues hold outdoor games each year. The Winter Classic also led to the revival of the Heritage Classic, an outdoor game featuring only Canadian NHL teams; and the creation of the NHL Stadium Series, another regular season event held at an outdoor venue.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The 2014 Heritage Classic took place at Vancouver's BC Place, a retractable roof stadium. Due to rain, the roof was closed for the game.


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  2. ^ Wyshynski, Greg (December 21, 2010). "Chatting with NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood about Winter Classic, cable cam for hockey, Mike Milbury and HBO '24/7'". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  3. ^ Brink, Bill (December 26, 2010). "Winter Classic is a cool concept". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  4. ^ Dowbiggen, Bruce (December 30, 2010). "How hockey found its signature moment". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  5. ^ "NHL announces cancellation of 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic & SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival". NHL. November 2, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  6. ^ "2014 NHL Winter Classic will match Wings and Leafs". April 7, 2013. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  7. ^ Austin, Kyle (January 1, 2014). "Did the Winter Classic set a world record for hockey attendance? NHL says wait and see". MLive Media Group. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  8. ^ Cotsonika, Nick (January 24, 2014). "NHL won't get credit for Guinness world record at Winter Classic". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  9. ^ "Rangers on Road in the Bronx? Money May Be Why". The New York Times. January 25, 2014. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  10. ^ "Sabres to play Rangers in 2018 Winter Classic". Die by the Blade (SBNation). Vox Media. May 10, 2017. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  11. ^ Benjamin, Cody (May 12, 2017). "Sabres 'hosting' 2018 Winter Classic vs. Rangers reportedly saves MSG $40M". CBS Sports. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  12. ^ "Blackhawks, Bruins to face off in 2019 Winter Classic". NHL.com. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  13. ^ "2020 Bridgestone Winter Classic to feature Predators, Stars". NHL.com. January 26, 2019. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  14. ^ Dan Rosen (January 1, 2020). "Stars rally past Predators for victory in Winter Classic". NHL.com. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  15. ^ "Wild to host 2021 NHL Winter Classic at Target Field". NHL.com. January 1, 2020. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  16. ^ "NHL postpones Winter Classic, All-Star Weekend for this season". National Hockey League. October 23, 2020. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  17. ^ Dan Rosen (January 2, 2022). "Kyrou, Blues hold off Wild in Winter Classic". NHL.com. Retrieved February 6, 2022.
  18. ^ Rick Porter (April 26, 2021). "WarnerMedia Snags Remaining NHL TV Rights as NBC Bows Out". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  19. ^ a b Rosen, Dan (February 5, 2022). "2023 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, Bruins opponent not announced". NHL.com. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
  20. ^ "Fenway Park to host Boston Bruins in NHL's 2023 Winter Classic". ESPN. February 4, 2022.
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External links[edit]

Media related to NHL Winter Classic at Wikimedia Commons