A little outdoor shinny


To anyone who says the National Hockey League is dead, I hope they took the time to turn on the television this afternoon.

Naysayers would have seen more than 71,000 attended today's Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres in the snow and cold at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

By the way, both the Penguins and Sabres need to go back to those uniforms full-time.

Just over four years ago, the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens played in the Heritage Classic at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium in sub-frigid conditions -- who can forget Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore's throwback toque complete with pom-pom?.

Of course, that was in Canada, where hockey is nothing short of religion. If there were a way have 100,000 on hand, it would have sold out, no question.

Could the same thing work here? Seems as if the answer was pretty clear on Tuesday. True, there wasn't much scoring -- the Penguins got a shootout goal from Sidney Crosby in the 2-1 win -- but I have no doubt that the players and coaches were able to revisit their roots of playing on frozen ponds, canals and lakes in Canada. In Finland. In Czechoslovakia.

"I'd love to do it again. I thought it was awesome," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "It was good for the game. It may not be the best hockey game because of the situation, because of the weather, because of the snow, but the atmosphere was incredible.

"The hell with the cynics."


Will the league do this again? It was probably wasn't cost-effective, but if it generates a buzz, I cannot see a reason for not capitalizing on it. Any positive press for a sport still trying to vault itself back into competition with the NBA and NASCAR.

How about the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings at Solider Field? In the future, I'm thinking the Wild and Dallas Stars hooking up in the Minnesota Twins' new outdoor ballpark.

Noted Gurnee-based blogstatician Chris Altruda has chimed in with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils at Giants Stadium.

Oh, the possibilities.


1. Ladislav Nagy, Los Angeles Kings: After failing to record a goal in nearly a month, Nagy had his first hat trick since Dec. 3, 2005, and a career high-tying five points in a 9-2 rout of the Blackhawks. The last-place Kings have won three in a row including a home-and-home set from Chicago.

2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: Amid the snowflakes in western New York, Crosby scored in the fourth round of the shootout giving Pittsburgh the win in the first outdoor NHL game played in the United States.

3. Mike Green, Washington Capitals: Green had two goals and an assist in the Capitals' 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. Green has 10 goals this season after totaling just three in his previous two years combined.

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