It’s no secret that professional sports involve many features that are separate from the actual performance of the athletes. Whether it is having a sponsor for a certain portion of the game, or companies bidding to get their logos the most air time on television during a night, the landscape of professional sports have changed.
However, some events have the ability to be immune to the “other” parts of pro sports in the 21st century. One of them is the NHL Winter Classic.
That’s not to say that this event doesn’t have the elements of professional sports. The official title of the event is “The 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic”, and the boards are littered with advertisements ranging from fast food chains to airlines, with every type of company in between.
The Winter Classic is special because it combines the talent of the best players in the world with the grassroots element of playing hockey outdoors that hockey players can relate to at any level. The game really is “old-time hockey”, and the nostalgia is not lost on players and fans alike.
When they talked about playing outdoors, the consensus among the players was that it brought them back to when they grew up playing the game. Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan said, “Just being outside in that element again with your gear on, skating around, it definitely brings you back and makes you feel like a little kid again.” After practice yesterday, the Flyers Zac Rinaldo said that “I had an ice rink in my uncle’s backyard every Christmas, so we would go back there and me and my cousin would just mess around on the ice. It just brought back those memories from back home in Hamilton.”
Those memories are what make the game special. It brings everyone back to what sports should be all about.