Seriously, these are my final thoughts, for now.
After "O Canada", Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sang "God Bless America" and thanked "our troops fighting in Afghanistan". Uhm, the troops from which country? Canada? Ireland? I'm pretty sure there are also still US troops in Iraq, so I guess we're not talking about them. Strange. Then the game started without the playing of the National Anthem. I guess was right about the fact that Buffalo has been annexed by Canada. (Funny how I thought "Chicago" when they said the "Blackhawks" are flying over.)
I was really impressed by the 71,217 hockey fans in Western NY/PA that showed up for this game. This will help prove that the NHL is a viable sport, or at least still alive and well, at least in strong hockey cities like Buffalo. I even believe that ESPN was a little jealous, as they didn't show any highlights for the first 21 minutes of Sportscenter despite a lack of any compelling sports news or bowl games. (Oh never mind, that's what they always do.)
Since NBC didn't have a bowl game it was their choice (not the NHL's) to hold this event on New Year's Day during a time when 4 bowl games were taking place. However, the ratings were much better than expected: a 2.6/5 (to compare, Game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals drew a 2.1), the highest regular season hockey ratings since FOX's Glowpuck days in 1996. Those aren't killer numbers, considering it's a day when pretty much everyone is off from work (except those forced to clean up all the buffalo wing chicken bones at the Ralph), but it's a stride in the right direction.
The frequent ice maintenance stoppages were a bit of a buzzkill. Apparently, the best technology we have to combat this is . . . one guy with a water bottle and a CO2 canister. I did predict there would be emergency Zamboni runs, but I didn't think that one of them would break because of the amount of snow it had to pick up. During these many breaks the NBC announcing team chose to chat about: how amazing Sidney Crosby is, the various methods used to repair the ice, the weather radar, Darren Pang's choice of headgear, and how fantastic Sidney Crosby is. This was a missed opportunity by NBC, who could have instead showed any of the following:
* Highlights from the 2007 season
* More awkward on-ice interviews with the players
* More clips from "Slap Shot"
* Those 2 minute webisodes of "The Office" that are impossible to watch online
* More shots of the kids playing pond hockey
* The Buffalo Jills cheerleaders!
* Beef on weck eating contests
* Hal Gurnee's Network Time Killers
* Reruns of classic "CHiPs" episodes
* "Costas Score-O", in which spectators throw Bob Costas into the hockey net
The most glaring omission: they didn't interview ONE SPECTATOR during the game. Of all the talk of how "electric" the atmosphere was, why not get a live account of it? They had over seventy-one thousand people to choose from! Just more evidence that NBC couldn't give a flying crap about hockey fans, or sports fans in general. I was also seriously hoping NBC's follow-up "Magic Of Seal On Ice" was going to be held outdoors after the hockey game, but it was not to be.
Thanks to the magic of HDTV, I was able to determine that Bob Costas uses the Just For Men hair color "Medium Dark Brown". He looked shiny and red like a chipmunk, and his boss, Dick Ebersol, especially liked the way he left a touch of gray on the sides. I somehow knew he'd comment about his hockey announcing experience with the 1973 Syracuse Blazers at age 21 (Kris was close when he guessed 17), but I didn't think they'd parlay that into an entire "Slap Shot" Oglithorpe/Goldthorpe fluff piece.
Where is hell is Bill Clement "Clement Hands of Cement"? They had him on NHL.tv doing a pregame with Sam Rosen, but that was it. He should have been working the intermissions instead of Mike Milbury, who is a blithering idiot.
While a New York version of this (The Frozen Apple Classic, name to be trademarked by me) would be pretty cool, especially at Yankee Stadium in early 2009 before it's demolished, the weather in the city might be a problem--it was warm enough to play golf the first weekend of January 2007 (though I don't remember any such weather in February). Therefore, the odds would be better for an outdoor game in Canada (even Quebec City!), Chicago, Colorado, Michigan or Massachusetts. Imagine over 107,000 in Michigan Stadium watching the Red Wings play the Blackhawks (which means there will be about 90,000 shitty seats)? How about an All-Star Game, Europe vs. North America, in Siberia? (Okay, maybe I went a step too far there.)
While this was a fun event to watch, and the snow fell almost on cue giving the whole thing an almost magical look, I don't think they should (or can) do this every year. Maybe it could pop up once every 2 years or so to make it more "special"; otherwise the novelty will wear off pretty quickly like it did with interleague baseball.
Despite all these mostly positive notes regarding the game, Bettman sucks.
Check out this Very Funny Live Blog [Melt Your Face Off].
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Seriously, these are my final thoughts, for now.