Monday, September 17, 2007

NHL Announces Outdoor Game

Talk began spreading months ago that the NHL was interested in hosting an outdoor game. It was only a matter of deciding on the teams and finding a stadium to play it in. Over the off-season murmurs of a possible Penguins vs. Sabres New Year's Game began to pick up momentum. The talk gained instant credibility when the NHL released the 2007-08, finding the two teams meeting on the 1st of January. For a month it's been the worst kept secret in the NHL. And now it's finally official. And in less than 24 hours I'll join the masses in lining up at Ticketmaster in order to secure my seat in that freezing stadium in three and a half months.

The Penguins vs. Sabres match-up sees two of the NHL's elite teams, and two of the best current hockey markets face-off. The young squad developing in Pittsburgh, lead by 20 year old, leading scorer and league MVP, Sidney Crosby, turned the team from 2nd to last in the league to playoff contender in only season. Now they hope to prove they can be Stanley Cup contenders in the 07-08 season. They have brought a resurgence of hockey in the city of Pittsburgh, with the team having to put a stop on season ticket orders at 13,500, just to keep some tickets available. In Buffalo, the Sabres have been Cup contenders for the past 2 seasons, coming within 1 game of the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, and 3 games in 2007. As for the following in Buffalo, at one point in the season top selling players jerseys 2 through 7 were all Sabres. Number one? Penguins Sidney Crosby. I don't imagine they'll have a very hard time selling all 74,000 seats in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

So, of course this is going to be huge in Pittsburgh and Buffalo, but is it going to be acknowledged in the rest of the sporting world as the event the NHL is trying to make it? It's a little too soon to tell. The league has managed to put up record numbers when it comes to attendance and merchandise, but thanks to their exclusive cable deal with Versus, they still find themselves at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to television ratings.

But the date they choose seems rather interesting, and quite ambitious. If you are a sports fan like myself, then New Years day means one thing, College football bowl games. Can the NHL compete with that? It would be tough, the College Football bowl system has been under large scrutiny for several years, but with the big broadcast networks and ESPN pushing it, it would be tough to beat.

But one thing is for sure, the spectacle will be a step in the right direct when it comes to promoting the game of hockey in America.

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