Blackhawks News

NHL Winter Classic Press Conference Says Little

By Colin Likas
Jan 1, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) wins a face off and passes the puck to defenseman Brent Seabrook (right) in the first period against the Washington Capitals during the 2015 Winter Classic hockey game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) wins a face off and passes the puck to defenseman Brent Seabrook (right) in the first period against the Washington Capitals during the 2015 Winter Classic hockey game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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Press conferences are supposed to reveal important information, but today’s Winter Classic event didn’t do that

Apparently realizing that this summer has really dragged on, from a “we don’t have hockey to watch” standpoint, the NHL decided to hold a 2017 Winter Classic press conference Tuesday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. You’ll remember the Jan. 2 game will feature the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s a nice little way to drum up interest for hockey during the offseason, even though plotting it against five to seven TV channels of Olympics is going to get your press conference mostly ignored. But hey, you have to do what you have to do in order to promote your event, right?

Well …

From what I can gather, this is what happened at today’s press conference, which featured the likes of Commissioner Gary Bettman, Chicago Blackhawks President John McDonough and Blues Chairman John Stillman:

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— Bettman said thanks to the Blackhawks for never turning down the opportunity to play in a Winter Classic.

— McDonough played up the game as the second coming of Jesus.

— The Blues announced they’d be building a new hockey rink in a St. Louis park.

— The Alumni Game was scheduled for Dec. 31.

So there was a lot of lip service and two interesting bits of information, but nothing that couldn’t have been tossed into a news release, instead of getting us all prepped as though this press conference was going to give us major news.

But maybe I’m being too “Bah, humbug.” The rink in St. Louis is cool. It’ll promote hockey in the area and give youngsters another skating option, something I can’t imagine is abundantly available in that area. The Alumni Game is always fun as well, so it’s cool to know when that’s happening — although I’d much rather know the rosters than the date.

Really, more items of interest came from discussions and interviews after the press conference itself. The first was courtesy a tweet from the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc.

Bettman recently came out saying, once again, that he sees no definitive links between the rigors of playing hockey and the degenerative brain disease CTE, short for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Good on Kuc for asking Bettman about this again; eventually, if pressured enough, he’s going to have to come up with something to say versus shrugging his shoulders.

Bettman and the NHL’s approach to CTE, which is found in individuals who suffer severe or repeated head blows (you know, individuals like late former Blackhawk Steve Montador), makes the NFL look tolerant of scientists’ research on the topic. It’s so disappointing that Bettman continues to find ways to individually hold back the sport of hockey.

Another item of interest was a bit of Twitter debate regarding the set date for the Winter Classic. The Blackhawks and Blues will play at Busch Stadium on Jan. 2, which is a Monday. Of course, during that time of year, the NHL is not alone in its activity.

The NFL will have its final weekend of regular-season games just ahead of the Winter Classic, while college football boasts the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Outback Bowl on Jan. 2.

So you don’t want to compete directly against the NFL’s Week 17, and you’d probably prefer not to compete against major college bowls, especially the Rose Bowl. That game will feature a Big Ten team, and you can bet a lot of Blackhawks and Blues fans are interested in at least one Big Ten school.

But Dec. 31? There’s no NFL football, and there’s just two college bowl games — though both will feature a Big Ten team. Still, it probably makes a lot more sense to run the Winter Classic on Dec. 31 this season.

It’s a Saturday, and you could kick it off sometime around 2 p.m. Both bowl games are slated for 10 a.m. (Central time), so the Winter Classic would be all alone to follow up the bowl games (minus any NBA action). Instead, you’re tossing the Alumni Game out there. Nothing against watching the old guys play — it’s been a fun spectacle each year. But the Winter Classic game itself would be better served in that slot.

One more note of interest, courtesy Kuc:

It should be interesting to see what comes from these discussions. NHL players have been an important staple of recent Winter Olympics, but it’s no secret it’s a drain on these guys, especially the ones who make deep Stanley Cup Playoffs runs the same year.

Next: Kane, Toews Lead Top 20 Forwards

Watching NHL players in the Olympics is always a blast, but I’m sure there are plenty of facets of that agreement that need to be discussed before the games occur.

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