Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks Being Overexposed Through Outdoor Hockey

By Mario Tirabassi
Feb 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) looks on during a Stadium Series hockey game at TCF Bank Stadium. The Minnesota Wild defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) looks on during a Stadium Series hockey game at TCF Bank Stadium. The Minnesota Wild defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /
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If it’s not too early to talk Christmas, it’s not too early to talk Winter Classic

Thanksgiving in the States is this week. Christmas Day is five weeks away. The 2017 NHL Winter Classic is six weeks away. So let’s talk outdoor hockey.

The Chicago Blackhawks will take on the St. Louis Blues in the ninth installment of the NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2, 2017. The game will take place at the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium.

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It will be the first Winter Classic appearance for the Blues and the Blackhawks’ third appearance in the Winter Classic, the most of the 11 teams to be featured in the contest.

It will also be the Blues’ first outdoor game in franchise history and the fifth outdoor game for the Blackhawks, also the most of the 23 NHL teams to play in a featured NHL outdoor game.

The previous four outdoor games for the Blackhawks were the 2009 Winter Classic loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field, the 2014 Stadium Series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Solider Field, the 2015 Winter Classic loss to the Washington Capitals at Nationals Park and most recently the 2016 Stadium Series loss to the Minnesota Wild at TCF Bank Stadium.

Blackhawks being used too much?

Boasting a 1-3 record in four outdoor contests isn’t much of a black eye on the Blackhawks because, hey, they’re in the featured games, right? What’s not to like? But what is the outdoor game’s appeal and ultimate goal for the NHL? National exposure in hopes to grow an audience.

The Blackhawks were an up-and-coming team in the 2008-09 season, and the historic Wrigley Field game against the well-established Red Wings made sense.

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The Stadium Series game at Solider Field made sense, putting the defending Stanley Cup champions against a very well-established Pittsburgh Penguins team in another historic Chicago venue in Solider Field.

The 2015 Winter Classic wasn’t a “classic” matchup, as the Blackhawks and Capitals don’t have a history or even a modern rivalry. But what are you going to do? Have the Capitals play the Penguins again? Sure, it was probably a thought among the NHL brass, but it would have been same old, same old.

The 2016 Stadium Series game against the Wild, while it has history with the old North Stars franchise, seemed like a matchup with an excuse to put it outside. Plus, the 6-1 loss wasn’t fun either.

So it comes to the upcoming 2017 Winter Classic pitting Chicago against St. Louis, both past and present heated rivals. Nice.

The game will take place at Busch Stadium, which doesn’t have the historical feel of a Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. But the visuals and scenery around Busch Stadium will provide a very nice backdrop to the game and other festivities.

Quick! Over/under on times the Arch is shown on January 2? Let’s put it at 2.5 and I’ll take the over. 

The rivalry is great. It is a classic and good on the NHL for getting St. Louis in on the outdoor game fun, but it has started to become stale for the Blackhawks to be involved in these types of games.

As a fan of the team, it is always fun seeing them involved, don’t get me wrong. But as a fan of the NHL and an advocate for the growth of hockey in North America, and by North America I mean the States, it is important that more than just the most profitable team or the team that will grab the most regional viewers is featured.

The NHL needs to make sure that other markets get the big-time exposure to help grow the audience because the league is not big enough to do what the NFL and NBA do: feature the same half-dozen teams on the national scale, every week.

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