Tag Archives: 2016 Winter Classic

2nd Annual Long Overdue New Sweater Rankings

Admit it, you’ve been wondering when this was going to come out and you’re dying to reflect on whether any of your old hot takes still hold up compared to how some of these beauties actually look on the ice.

Once again it’s time for one DTFR writer’s thoughts and ranking of all the newest threads introduced in the National Hockey League for the 2019-20 season and beyond.

NHL teams often try to create a buzz and stick to the brand, but occasionally there’s a few outliers that do the opposite of what the introduction of Gritty as the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers has done that organization, for example.

In other words, remember that Dallas Stars third jersey from 2003-06? Yeah, that one. Beloved by some, but hated by many– nevertheless, everyone wonders the same thing “who gave the final approval for that?”

Please enjoy this year’s light-hearted ranking of the newest threads and fashion sense.

13. Anaheim Ducks (unveiled, Sept. 30, 2019)

In their 26th NHL season, the Anaheim Ducks brought back their Orange County Orange(™) alternate sweaters that were previously worn from 2015-17.

After the mandatory one-year hiatus from the NHL’s third jersey program while the league made the switch from the Reebok Edge to adidas ADIZERO design in 2017-18– as well as Anaheim’s one-year specialty jersey to commemorate their 25th anniversary last season– the current alternate threads have made their official comeback.

While most like the homage of the crest to the original name of the franchise as the “Mighty Ducks of Anaheim”, this sweater just doesn’t really do it for me. Yes, more orange isn’t a bad thing in the NHL, but overall the design is pretty formulaic when it comes to featuring secondary logos, tertiary colors, etc.

It’s nice to see it make its return, but dare I say it, the 25th anniversary alternate sweater was actually… kind of great. Perhaps it should come back.

12. Los Angeles Kings (unveiled, Aug. 31, 2019)

The Los Angeles Kings are living in the past these days– what with Rob Blake as their General Manager and all, plus the reintroduction of their iconic 1988-96 look.

Los Angeles brought out these Heritage sweaters from the closet to appease jersey collectors looking for a little something from the past, but in the modern ADIZERO fit and with names like “Brown”, “Doughty”, “Kopitar” and “Quick” on the back instead of those other guys who never won a Cup in a Kings sweater like “Gretzky” and “Robitaille”.

We live in strange times, indeed.

That said, Los Angeles’ 2020 Stadium Series sweater (leaked in Nov.) leaves something to be desired.

It’s as if someone took one of those pieces from an Othello board, added some streaks from Vancouver’s “Flying Skate” spaghetti stripes and worked in the coolest feature (the checkerboard pattern behind the neck) in the smallest place they could’ve possibly done so just to smite us.

The “Burger King” is dead. May he continue to rest in peace.

But if the Kings ever wanted to go all out on a zany Stadium Series design, think black and white checkerboard with the “Burger King” crest. Now that’s how you get a European feel in an outdoor NHL game.

Anze Kopitar would be proud. Do it for your captain, Kings.

11. St. Louis Blues (unveiled, Sept. 14, 2019)

The St. Louis Blues decided that Los Angeles couldn’t be the only team digging up what they wore when Wayne Gretzky was on their roster, so they dusted off their own 1990s look and put it back on the shelves at Enterprise Center.

There’s nothing original about it, since it’s just their 1995-98 dark sweater, but ADIZERO-fied. Does this mean Gretzky’s going to come back for another 16 regular season games?

10. Colorado Avalanche (leaked, Nov. 12, 2019)

The Colorado Avalanche had a rather conservative 2016 Stadium Series sweater at Coors Field and the Avs paid for it dearly by losing, 5-3, to the Detroit Red Wings.

This time around, Colorado’s looking to take flight at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs with what’s already a winning design.

Embrace the chaos.

Traditionally, the Stadium Series is always about taking hockey where it’s never been– whether it’s an outdoor game in Los Angeles or simply in the sweater design. This year’s Stadium Series matchup is certainly living up to the outlandish theme– dare we say futuristic? If only that future involves minimalism combined with the absurd.

9. Vancouver Canucks (unveiled, Sept. 12, 2019)

The Vancouver Canucks refreshed their look for the 2019-20 season and beyond by dropping the “Vancouver” wordmark from above the orca and making their crest logo larger than ever before.

Not to be outdone, the Canucks modernized the stick in the rink logo on the shoulders, cast it in white instead of blue and only committed one jersey foul by not keeping the shoulder patches clad in blue on the white road sweaters for contrast.

A little subtle change in detail from home to road sweaters isn’t a bad thing like how the Boston Bruins home shoulder patch reads as “Bruins” above the bear and “Boston” above the bear on the road sweaters. Again, it’s the little things that really make something feel complete and the Canucks could very well rectify this “existential crisis” in time for the 2020-21 season, but it’s nothing major.

The Canucks really did a great job of reducing their colors to blue and green on their alternate “Heritage” sweaters. Is it perfect? No, but it is something different from what they’ve had and different from their usual look, so that’s better than nothing.

The stick in the rink logo really pops on the alternates and it’s a shame they’re likely only going to be worn for this season unless I can convince them otherwise (do the right thing, Vancouver).

Maybe take a little inspiration from the Vancouver Millionaires sleeve striping pattern and figure out a way to correlate that with the alternate logo and you just might make a certified gold mashup of Vancouver hockey sweaters from over the years.

In addition to celebrating their 50th anniversary in style, Vancouver brought back their “Flying Skate” jerseys as throwbacks this year and, well, they’re decent in the ADIZERO design, but unless the Canucks are going to forfeit pacific green and blue to Seattle in 2021, Vancouver shouldn’t switch their colors back to red, yellow and black.

Pavel Bure could pull off the look, but don’t make Elias Pettersson wear those things more than he has to.

8. Calgary Flames (unveiled, Sept. 13, 2019)

Simply put, these 2019 Heritage Classic sweaters should be the Calgary Flames’ road sweaters.

Calgary dug out their 1989 look last season for their current alternate sweater and unless the Flames are planning on bringing back the flaming horse head sweater from 1998-06, it’s probably time to go back to the past for a little while and wallow in the nostalgia of when the franchise didn’t let Jarome Iginla down every year and actually won a Stanley Cup.

7. Winnipeg Jets (unveiled, Sept. 13, 2019)

Not many things from the 1970s have as much staying power as these Winnipeg Jets 2019 Heritage Classic sweaters. Everything about this jersey is sharp and it’s a shame the Jets can’t use them more often.

Winnipeg is cursed with superior design in both their past life as well as in their current iteration. It’s hard to tell the Jets to use these more when their current complete jersey set is as dynamic as it is and underrated.

6. Edmonton Oilers (unveiled, Sept. 12, 2019)

When the Edmonton Oilers changed over to their modern orange and navy blue color scheme, I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan at first.

Now, after remembering the days of my youth enjoying the hell out of watching Edmonton’s last great team– the 2005-06 Oilers roster– I want everything to be steeped in the navy blue of Ryan Smyth’s prime.

At first glance, these sweaters look like something you’d find in an intramural floor hockey league, but hey, even if you don’t win the championship, you’d still look better than all the other teams.

They’re bold and daring, but don’t scream “out of this world” in concept. They’re just fun and after all, isn’t that the point of the game? To just “have fun”?

Years from now we’re going to remember Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s prime as such a conflicting era of Oilers hockey.

The Second Coming of Sidney Crosby (McDavid) was forced to abandon the Wayne Gretzky colors for his own identity– this team’s current identity– led by two-time All-Star goaltender, Mike Smith (who’s corresponding pads with the new alternates are phenomenal, by the way), of course.

Ok, really, I got nothing else about this design. It’s plain, but electric. It has just the right amount of marketability to kids who will have their hearts broken by this team.

5. Nashville Predators (unveiled, Nov. 2, 2019)

The Nashville Predators’ 2020 Winter Classic sweater is a timeless look– most notably because it is actually a thing from the past based on the Dixie Flyers’ sweaters from 1962-71, but also because anytime there’s a script involved on the front of an NHL jersey instead of a logo, there’s a 99% chance Hockey Twitter is going to compare it to the old Minnesota Wild alternate sweater from 2009-17 and wish for more teams to try their hand at cursive writing.

In other words, the Preds actually made something good and that’ll sell well, even if fans are going to have to acknowledge that Nashville’s Stanley Cup contender status window may be closing– and fast.

This strikes me as a very good pond hockey jersey to wear for some reason and that shoulder patch should see added mileage on a future alternate sweater, in case the Predators are looking for a starting point (and to avoid whatever mustard yellow sweater Peter Forsberg had to wear in his short Nashville tenure).

4. Boston Bruins (unveiled, Nov. 24, 2019)

The Boston Bruins played it conservatively for the second alternate jersey in a row, simply pulling an old sweater out of the closet, bringing it to a tailor and tweaking a few minor things.

That said, Bruins President, Cam Neely, has a knack for marketing his organization.

Boston’s new alternate is just a throwback from their first full-time road sweater in 1948-49, but with a modernized “B” font from the 2019 Winter Classic sweater and small changes to the stripes.

It’s elegant, but just how daring is it? 

“Original Six” franchises are proud to display their history and there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s not a one-off sort of thing that pits the organization’s current stars in a weird alternate timeline where things just don’t look right (looking at you, Montreal Canadiens 100th anniversary trio).

Sure, the Toronto Maple Leafs occasionally bring out something from their Arenas days or St. Pats days for a game or two each year, but they’re not as hideous as whatever the Habs went through before settling on their tricolor motif a few years prior to the NHL’s creation.

Anyway, you have to give credit to the Bruins for actually taking some things from the past and updating them to modern building codes such that players like Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Zdeno Chara can get a feel for what franchise legends like Eddie Shore, Lionel Hitchman, “Dit” Clapper and Milt Schmidt wore back in the day without cheapening the spectacle in a one-time only scenario.

Neely has a history in his tenure for overseeing every aspect in the design of a legacy product– the 2010 Winter Classic sweater featured an updated 25th anniversary spoked-B crest from the 1948-49 season white jersey clad on a 1958-59 gold jersey with brown instead of black accents.

The 2016 Winter Classic sweater was an updated version of their original 1924-25 sweater– exchanging brown for black. And of course, Boston’s 2019 Winter Classic sweater was based on their look from the early 1930s with a modernized “B” and more stripes on the sleeves.

Timeless doesn’t have to mean drab if the players are flying up and down the ice adding their own creativity to the sweater.

3. Dallas Stars (unveiled, Nov. 6, 2019)

Hockey sweaters can never have too many stripes, nor can they ever have too much green– and I’m not just saying that as someone who’s favorite color is green.

The Dallas Stars are paying homage to the 1940s professional hockey team before them– the Dallas Texans– with a “fauxback” of sorts.

Though they’re claiming the identity of a long-gone team in the basic design elements, the Stars brought forth something fresh and clean to the drawing board instead of all the possibilities the former Minnesota North Stars could have ran with for one game.

Dallas wearing a North Stars emblem in an outdoor game in Dallas wouldn’t be very Dallas.

But this sweater is. Plus the old-school colored pants and white gloves really complete the aesthetic. Who could be mad at that?

Bonus points for the State of Texas patch on the sleeve with an ode to “The Big D” inside it.

2. Carolina Hurricanes (unveiled, Aug. 20, 2019)

You may call them “Candy Canes”, but the Carolina Hurricanes are the owners of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and we’re all just trying to be one of the lucky five people with golden tickets.

Perhaps that’s the strangest way of saying this year’s new road sweater is everything that most jerseys aren’t– actually creative. There’s no “copy, paste and invert the colors” involved.

The hurricane warning motif was brought back as a bottom stripe (major style points) and they introduced red gloves to match the red pants, as well as a red-based 3-D Hurricanes logo on the sides of the helmet.

Carolina got rid of the added weight on the shoulders by removing the red yoke and righted a wrong on the previous version of their road white sweaters– the names and numbers are back in red.

Though three distinct jerseys for each sweater style (home, away and alternate) is usually not my thing from a brand consistency standpoint, the Hurricanes made significant improvements to playing within their stormy elements and not trying to blend in with anyone else.

They are their own thing– diagonal “CANES” moniker across the front of the road sweater be damned.

If you don’t like it, then you’re clearly not a Caniac.

(And if– for some reason– you are a Caniac and you don’t like these sweaters, well they’re still doing Whalers Night this year, so please enjoy your “traditional” fix on Jan. 11th.)

1. Buffalo Sabres (unveiled, Aug. 16, 2019)

You can never have too many stripes in soccer, rugby or hockey. Take notes kids.

Also, the Buffalo Sabres really hit it out of the park with the same shiny gold thread that’s prominent in the Vegas Golden Knights’ overall identity.

Much like how the Ducks– in retrospect– nailed their 25th anniversary aesthetic with an element from every jersey in one, the Sabres nailed their 50th anniversary– their golden anniversary– with almost literal gold.

It’s gold in color, but not in carats.

Buffalo’s switching back to royal blue in their home and road sweaters for the 2020-21 season and beyond, so it’s really only fitting that white is the basis for this ode to the team’s inception, growth and existence over half a century.

The Sabres made sure to include all four renditions of their primary logo over the years inside the collar, which is a unique thing about NHL sweaters compared to other leagues– the incredible level of personalization to an organization– no detail is overlooked.

It’s a shame these will only be worn for this season, but it’s a sacrifice many are willing to make for the return to royal blue, I’m sure.


One of these days the Ottawa Senators are due for a rebrand (and with it, new third jerseys), but until then, the Vegas Golden Knights, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Nashville Predators may all introduce third jerseys at some point.

Probably not this year at this rate, but maybe next year.

DTFR Podcast #171- 2019-20 Season Preview: Central Division

All of the (good) RFAs have been re-signed, the Carolina Hurricanes keep making moves, 2020 Winter Classic logos have been revealed and DTFR’s season previews conclude with the Central Division.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #143- Overage Fees

The Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins swapped familiar assets, while the Toronto Maple Leafs added a defender in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Red Kelly’s number is going to be retired (again– this time by the Detroit Red Wings) and we now know the opponents in the 2020 Winter Classic and 2020 Stadium Series games.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Bergeron’s 4th career hat trick lifts Boston, 6-3, over Sens

Patrice Bergeron was part of the Hart Trophy conversation last season until he was sidelined by injuries late in the year, but he’s making himself an early Hart Trophy favorite this season with his 4th career hat trick on the tails of a four-point afternoon for the Boston Bruins in Monday’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.

It’s only October, of course.

In the calendar year, 2018, Bergeron has three hat tricks alone– including two last season (January 6th vs. Carolina– he had four goals that night, actually– and January 18th at N.Y. Islanders) and Monday afternoon’s matinee matchup. It was also his first hat trick against the Senators since January 11, 2011.

Bergeron wasn’t the only storyline for the Bruins against Ottawa, as David Pastrnak also had a four-point game, notching two goals and two assists. Brad Marchand had three assists in the effort as Boston’s first line led the offensive effort for the Bruins.

The two players with four-points in the game (Bergeron and Pastrnak) marked the first time in franchise history that multiple players recorded at least four points in Boston’s home opener.

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Tuukka Rask had 28 saves on 31 shots faced for a .903 save percentage in the win, while Ottawa netminder, Mike Condon, had 24 saves on 29 shots against for an .828 SV% in the loss.

Condon made his first career start at TD Garden for the Senators. His previous start “in Boston” was actually in Foxborough, Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Walpole, Massachusetts native, Chris Wagner, made his home debut with his new club in Boston, as did defender John Moore. Joakim Nordstrom was a healthy scratch for the Bruins and Jaroslav Halak served as the backup on the bench.

One more debut Monday afternoon was made by Senators forward– and 4th overall pick in the 2018 Draft– Brady Tkachuk in his NHL debut. Tkachuk played college hockey at Boston University and is the son of former NHLer and Melrose, Massachusetts native, Keith Tkachuk. Despite being born in Scottsdale, Arizona, the younger Tkachuk spent plenty of time growing up in and around Boston (as well as St. Louis, Missouri).

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy juggled the lines a bit between last Thursday’s shutout victory in Buffalo and Monday’s matinee, putting David Backes at center on the third line in place of Nordstrom and moving Anders Bjork up a line into Backes’s right wing slot.

Additionally, Wagner slid in on the left side of Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari on the fourth line. There were no changes to the defensive pairings.

It didn’t take long for Boston’s offense to strike as Bergeron (2) found a rebound and slid it under Condon while falling to the ice 30 seconds into the action to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Pastrnak (1) and Charlie McAvoy (2) had the assists on the goal.

Danton Heinen was guilty of an interference minor against Ottawa’s Mikkel Boedker shortly thereafter and was sent to the penalty box at 2:21 of the first period.

The Senators failed to convert on the ensuing power play as Boston continued to do a better job of controlling the overall game flow, even through chaos at times where Backes was left to make a desperation save on a shot block midway through the period.

Mark Borowiecki tripped Brandon Carlo at 11:21 of the first period and gave the Bruins their first power play of the afternoon. Boston did not convert on their first skater advantage, but would connect on the power play the second time around when Colin White took a hooking penalty against Acciari at 15:31.

Standing from his stereotypical bumper position in the low slot, Marchand sent a pass to Bergeron (3) for the one-timer power play goal past Condon for a 2-0 lead. Marchand (5) and Pastrnak (2) notched the assists on Bergeron’s second goal of the day at 17:12 of the first period.

After 20 minutes, the Bruins led 2-0 and led in shots on goal, 15-9. Ottawa dominated in blocked shots (8-3) and takeaways (4-3), while Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (4-3) and face-off win percentage (55-45). Through one period, hits were even, 5-5, and the Senators were 0/1 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/2.

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Ryan Dzingel (1) opened scoring in the second period and got the Sens on the scoreboard, cutting Boston’s lead in half to make it 2-1. Mark Stone (1) and Zack Smith (3) had the assists on Dzingel’s goal as Stone found Dzingel creeping down the middle to find a loose puck in the slot and beat Rask at 2:21 of the second period.

Ottawa came out of the first intermission with a lot of moxie, spending more time in the offensive zone than they did in their own end and in the first period. In fact, the Senators wound up outshooting the Bruins, 12-6, in the second period as part of their offensive display.

Moments after Dzingel made it a one-goal game, Charlie McAvoy fired a shot that was redirected by Chris Wagner (1) for his first goal of the season and his first with his hometown team since joining the Bruins via free agency in July after splitting last season with the Anaheim Ducks and New York Islanders.

McAvoy (3) and Kuraly (1) were credited with the assists at 7:08 and Boston led, 3-1.

Matt Grzelcyk and Chris Wideman were charged with roughing minors after a stoppage in play at 8:18 of the second period and left both teams with two minutes of 4-on-4 action.

Nearly four minutes later, while McAvoy fumbled a wrap around the boards in his own end, Dzingel (2) pounced on the loose puck and threw it on goal from halfway between the point and the face-off circle along the wall, squeaking one past Rask– as Zdeno Chara partially screened his own goaltender– and again pulling Ottawa within one to make it, 3-2.

Dylan DeMelo (1) and Thomas Chabot (3) notched the assists on Dzingel’s second goal of the afternoon at 12:13.

Through two periods, Boston led, 3-2, and shots on goal were tied, 21-21. The Senators domination of the second period pulled them to within a goal and gave them the advantage in blocked shots (11-6), takeaways (8-6) and face-off win% (60-40). Both teams had six giveaways through 40 minutes and hits were even, 14-14.

Bergeron (4) opened scoring in the third period with his hat trick goal at 4:38. His third goal of the afternoon deflected off of Sens defender Cody Ceci and past Condon after Bergeron initially tried to send the puck to Pastrnak in the slot.

Marchand (6) and McAvoy (4) picked up the assists on Bergeron’s third goal of the day that made it 4-2 Boston.

A couple minutes later, Alex Formenton crashed the net and ran into the Bruins goaltender as Rask aggressively played the puck outside his crease and tripped up Formenton– sending the Ottawa forward airborne over Rask.

Bruins defender, John Moore, didn’t take too kindly to his own teammate’s antics and received a minor penalty for roughing Formenton at 6:42 of the third period.

While on the penalty kill, Bergeron attempted to clear the puck down the frozen river and instead sent the rubber biscuit over the glass and out of the playing surface. He was given a delay of game minor penalty and Ottawa went on a 5-on-3 advantage at 7:26 of the third.

The Bruins killed off both minor penalties.

David Pastrnak (2) added his second goal of the season late in the third period and made it a three-goal game for Boston. Bergeron (2) and Zdeno Chara (1) had the assists and the Bruins had a 5-2 lead at 16:31.

Less than a minute later, Bobby Ryan (1) deflected a shot from DeMelo through traffic and past Rask to bring the Senators to within two goals and make it 5-3 at 17:03 of the third period.

DeMelo (2) and Chris Tierney (3) recorded the assists on Ryan’s first goal of the season and Ottawa can thank the Erik Karlsson trade for the pair of former San Jose Sharks members that led to Ryan’s goal.

With 1:50 remaining in regulation, Sens head coach Guy Boucher pulled Condon for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as 28 seconds later Pastrnak (3) added an empty net goal to make it, 6-3, Boston.

Marchand (7) recorded his third assist of the afternoon on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game and the Bruins went on to walk away from their home opener with a 6-3 victory.

Ottawa finished Monday afternoon leading in shots on goal (31-30), blocked shots (14-8), giveaways (8-6) and face-off win% (57-43). Boston finished the afternoon with the win and leading in hits (18-17). The Senators were 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2.

Among some other stats from the matinee game…

Moore led all Bruins with four hits on the afternoon, while Boston’s fourth line combined for seven hits in the game with Wagner and Acciari each leading the Bruins forwards with three hits apiece (Kuraly had one hit).

Boston’s second line of David Krejci, Ryan Donato and Jake DeBrusk were all a minus-2, while Pastrnak led the Bruins in shots on goal with six. Bergeron had four.

Speaking of Bergeron, his first goal of the day marked the third fastest to begin a home-opening game in franchise history. Bergeron’s goal 30 seconds into the game trails Brad Boyes (18 seconds on October 19, 2006) and Terry O’Reilly (23 seconds on October 8, 1981).

98.5 The Sports Hub Bruins beat reporter, Ty Anderson, noted Bergeron’s hat trick was the first home opener hat trick since Cam Neely‘s 1995 home opener hat trick and The Boston Globe‘s Matt Porter followed that up with all of the home opener hat tricks for Boston since 1967, including Phil Esposito (October 10, 1973), Rick Middleton (October 7, 1976), Neely (October 7, 1995) and Bergeron (October 8, 2018).

Middleton’s No. 16 will be retired this November, joining Esposito’s No. 7 and Neely’s No. 8 (among others) in the rafters of TD Garden, so surely this means Bergeron’s No. 37 is a shoe-in to be retired someday.

The Bruins improved to 2-1-0 on the season and are currently tied for 1st place in the Atlantic Division with the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs. Each team has four points on the season.

Boston takes on the visiting Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at TD Garden.

DTFR Overtime: Fixing the Winter Classic

We’ve all had some time to digest the spectacle that was the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, now let’s reflect on the experience as a whole for a minute and discuss ways to make it more interesting, considering ratings fell for the third year in a row.

This is DTFR Overtime and I’ve been neglecting you all through the holidays.


The Winter Classic is great.

You heard that right. I love an outdoor NHL game. Not for the most commonly stated reason why NBC loves the game. No, I couldn’t care less about how much a player feels like they’re a kid again playing outdoors on their backyard rink, local pond, river or lake.

I love the Winter Classic because it’s different.

Different jerseys, different atmosphere, different venue and usually a different game winner.

The Buffalo Sabres-New York Rangers matchup actually turned out to be a good one. Just when all hope was thought to be lost after trailing 2-0 early, the Sabres showed up on the scoreboard.

In the end, the Rangers won and that was fitting, since they were closer to their home ice than the technically speaking “home” team in this year’s Winter Classic due to a clause in New York’s contract with Madison Square Garden that states the Rangers cannot play a home game outside MSG.

Overtime outdoors with flames in the end seemed like a perfect ending to a largely under-produced, under-promoted, sporting event.

The Winter Classic has always shown potential. Why not tap into it?

Let’s address the obvious elephant in the room from this year’s matchup– the matchup itself. Sure, letting Jack Eichel run around outside is a great idea and all, but against the New York Rangers at Citi Field? None of that makes sense, considering 1) if you’re going to go with the 10th anniversary narrative, at least invite the Pittsburgh Penguins alumni team and Sabres alumni team to skate around the mini rink during intermission or something and 2) it should have been you, New York Islanders.

Not a Sabres-Islanders matchup, but rather a Battle for New York (City). Rangers-Islanders at Citi Field would’ve made a lot more sense, because, you know. The Islanders are the New York Mets of the NHL. Jimmy Fallon loves the Rangers, Jon Stewart loves… well, the Mets. At least the Islanders have that whole color scheme going for them (oh and a new arena coming soon to Belmont Park).

NBC didn’t have a problem calling up archival footage of Sidney Crosby scoring the shootout winning goal from the first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY.

Like Colby Kephart said on the podcast two weeks ago, Crosby’s path to glory at the NHL level started with that game winning shootout goal. He rose to stardom, but didn’t win a Cup immediately. Prior to appearing in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final (and 2009, 2016 and 2017 as well), Crosby’s biggest stage was his Winter Classic moment (again, until he lifted the Cup over his head in 2009, 2016 and 2017).

Eichel could’ve been played up as the American version of Crosby– still one of the greatest players in the league, though sometimes overlooked as if he had to prove himself some more.

Don’t like a Pittsburgh-Buffalo rematch 10 years in the making? That’s fine.

A Rangers-Islanders matchup would’ve made more sense on New Year’s Day if you really want to play the rivalry card. It also would’ve actually meant something in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division.

As much as people hate on NBC for taking away divisional or actual rivalry games from local media broadcasting crews, sometimes it must be done. Nationally displaced local fans want to be able to watch their teams with ease– having some of their biggest matchups on national television isn’t a bad thing when it’s done right.

Give us the standings– give us the storylines of recent hatred among the clubs and national audiences might eat it up more than hearing over and over again where somebody is from or how one goaltending coach taught the two goalies at opposite ends of the ice everything they know.

If the league could schedule one or two matchups between rivals within a week or two before they take things outside, imagine what a perfect storm of potential chaos that would be on the ice.

Of course, timing is everything when it comes to touting a rivalry as a premiere event to be seen by all.

Remember how the 2016 Winter Classic was a 5-1 blowout by the Montreal Canadiens on road ice at Gillette Stadium? The Boston Bruins missed the playoffs in 2015 and they went on to miss them again in 2016.

They were in a lull in talent on the ice. Their longest rivalry with Montreal had crescendoed when Bruins exorcised their demons in 2011 en route to the Cup, but not much of the championship roster from 2011 remained in 2016– except for core players in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask.

Then the rivalry went dormant as Boston fell asleep at the wheel in the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Canadiens ousted the President’s Trophy winning Bruins in seven games.

And 2017’s Winter Classic matchup of the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium didn’t go as hoped for a 50-year old rivalry– the Blues defeated the Blackhawks 4-1.

If you’re looking ahead to the 2019 Winter Classic between Boston and Chicago from Notre Dame Stadium, well, you better hope both teams are as lively as they’ve been at times this season on January 1, 2019.

Timing is everything.

If you’re worried about making adidas Winter Classic merchandise and getting it out to the consumers in time for the big game, let alone scheduling the right venue, teams and ticket sales, then why not have all 31 teams prepare something. Let every NHL franchise draw up a set of potential home and road Winter Classic sweaters.

Instead of announcing the following year’s Winter Classic a year and a half ahead of when it’s going to be played, just keep the fans in suspense– let rumors swirl about every team’s potential outdoor look and/or venue for just long enough until the league says “surprise, it’s going to be the Vegas Golden Knights against the Nashville Predators from Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee”. Trust me, people would want to go see that.

Worried about having jerseys made in time for fans to purchase? Make the Winter Classic announcement in July or August, then make the Winter Classic jerseys go on sale in pro shops in December.

Boost your holiday sales while not having to give in to the demands of consumers who want to get everything done and out of the way in October or November leading up to the December holidays and Happy Honda Days.

I know it’s hard, but actually keep some things secret.

The Winter Classic should be around through 2021 at least (pending NBC broadcasting rights and negotiations regarding an extension or who knows, maybe ESPN will want to cover hockey again in three years?), but we shouldn’t find out– through the league or anonymous sources– that the Blackhawks will be hosting the Penguins in a first ever home-and-home matchup in 2020 whereby Chicago hosts the Winter Classic and Pittsburgh hosts the Stadium Series until, say, before the start of the 2019-20 season.

The 2019 Winter Classic shouldn’t have been unveiled by a report from Barstool Sports in November 2017. Calendar-year-wise that’s a difference of two years.

That’s at least a year and six months of potential suspense that could’ve been building over where the local market cash grab outdoor game would be venturing off to– it’s Chicago again, isn’t it? Dammit.

At the very least, a league that’s pulling in $4.5 billion in revenue that also doesn’t want to share more money with the players (hello forthcoming lockout anytime between 2020 and 2022) should shell out $1 million to get someone like Lady Gaga or yes, even Coldplay (because hockey is played in the cold), or literally anyone other than Goo Goo Dolls, Nate Ruess or someone NBC wants on TV because they’re a winner or runner up from The Voice.

You can either praise Sidney Crosby all day during a game in which Crosby isn’t involved or you can give me a reality TV singing contestant that nobody’s heard of but you can’t have both in one day, NBC! *That sounded better in John Oliver’s voice in my head than it did when I wrote it, but the point still stands.*

Think of it this way, Mr. Bettman.

If you cast aside one or two outdoor games a year– because we all know three or four of them a year is too many– then you should have enough money to attract someone better than this year’s Super Bowl Pepsi Halftime Show performer, Justin Timberlake, and assert your dominance over the NFL in intermission/halftime entertainment at your very own “super bowl” (ahem, the Winter Classic) months before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

I’ll even take more of whatever this year’s Road to the Winter Classic was actually about (I think it was a Honda ad) if you’d just entertain us all for once during intermission instead of putting us to sleep before the Blackhawks come back out of the locker room for their 82nd outdoor game of the season.

And if it’s supposed to have a winter carnival vibe, maybe don’t bring the same stuff every year to each venue.

Bubble hockey is great and all, but giant inflatable snow globes and inflatable jerseys have gotten old. NASCAR’s Fanatics merchandise tent is more exciting than your free FanFest or whatever.

And please, bring back the Winter Classic Alumni Game. Beg NBCSN to show that instead of whatever Mecum Auto Auction they’re rerunning on New Year’s Eve or whatever.

I just don’t want to go a day without hockey, especially when I’m starting a new calendar year.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #87- 87s Galore (Crosby’s Favorite Episode)

The Original Trio discuss the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and more in separately recorded sessions of the podcast. Also, we’re available for hire. In memoriam: Part of Joe Thornton’s beard that Nazem Kadri ripped off (2015-2018).

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

A Few Thoughts…

By: Nick Lanciani

Hello, it’s me- okay I promise I won’t get Adele stuck in your head. I’m back again (kind of) and I’m here to share a few thoughts with you on the state of the National Hockey League as we wrap up the 2016 NHL All Star Break and get ready for tonight’s games. Thank you for reading (and hopefully enjoying) my “Look to the Rafters” series last year. I had a lot of fun writing most of them before the season started, then making minor changes to them before posting them throughout the last several months as I tried to cram them into my busy schedule.

This is my first “real-time” post in a while that hasn’t just been a podcast, because I’ve had other commitments on weekends. Having said that, I’ll resume a regular column role after the Super Bowl because, well, I’ll be working this weekend (go Panthers! – Carolina Panthers, that is).

Anyway, how about the league parity this year? Every division is pretty close unless you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets, then there’s pretty much no hope (I’m sorry, good people of Columbus, Ohio).

Plenty of teams are in spectacular standings battles as we begin the rest of the season after the All Star Break (it’s not really the second half of the season, since every team has played over 41 games already ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). I’ll be taking a look at some trade deadline previews in the next week or two, as the trade deadline is looming over the horizon, but first here’s a few thoughts for your pleasure…

First, good for the NHL for finally stepping up to the plate and embracing John Scott at the All Star Game- that and the new 3 on 3 All Star Game format made it perhaps the best All Star Game since at least 2004. I won’t go into the hypocritical nuances and overtones from the entire All Star Weekend regarding the storylines the league was drumming up about John Scott, but I digress.

Second, John Scott has a way with words (and I mean it). If you still haven’t had the time to read Scott’s column in The Players’ Tribune go ahead and read it now, I’ll wait. You good now? If you’ve already read it, read it again. Scott’s piece is exceptional. It’s well crafted, well written, and well, better than anything I ever did/aim to do here on this site. Seriously, Mr. Scott, if you ever consider becoming a hockey blogger after you retire from the game someday, please write for us, as long as we’re still around however many years into the future.

Third, there’s plenty of speculation mounting regarding league expansion once again- then again, when hasn’t it been this season? I’m sure the league is doing everything in its power to carefully review and construct all the details that would be necessary to work out for any cautious business ventures that may or may not ultimately be made.

Again, however, not much has changed in the discussion at the end of the day. Québec City is still a beautiful city and deserves an NHL team, however, history may be repeating itself in that the Canadian dollar has been showing signs of the ultimate demise of the 1990s Quebec Nordiques. In other words, it’s not good.

You might ask, “what about revenue sharing?” and the answer is that the league already has a system in place that significantly boosts its smaller market Canadian teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and even Ottawa- these are “small” in the sense that their financial backing is nothing compared to the Toronto Maple Leafs and/or the Montreal Canadiens).

Bottom line, it’s important to remember that 1) any sports franchise is expensive as heck to own and operate, especially if any public funding comes into play and 2) all Canadian teams generate revenue in Canadian dollars, but must pay their salaries in American dollars per the terms and conditions of the current CBA.

So, yeah, umm I’d like to see the Québec Nordiques resurrected, but not if it means that they’ll end up folding or relocating only a few years into a rebirth.

With regards to Las Vegas, T-Mobile picked up the tab on the naming rights for the new Las Vegas arena, so that’s promising for something, whether it’s hockey or just another entertainment venue ultimately. The league seems to have a special interest in the Las Vegas ownership group given its strong backing and the tremendous amounts of support that local Vegas residents have shown in hopes of landing an NHL gig.

And for you, good people of Las Vegas, Nevada, I am hopeful. Just as hopeful as I am for the wonderful citizens of Le Ville de Québec. Indeed, it would be a shame if this is all for nothing for now, but at least the serious level of the discussions is out there, are tangible, and within reach of hopefully putting something together.

As for Seattle, remember they are not part of the formal expansion application/discussion process at this time because they still cannot come to terms on building a new NHL/NBA ready arena in the Seattle metropolitan area.

Which, hey, if you wonderful people of Seattle, Washington got on that, we could be talking about another possible expansion team and almost being able to balance the conferences again (and that right there, lies another issue potentially holding expansion back- the imbalance of the conferences as they are and as they would be by adding teams in Québec and Las Vegas).

All I know is that I’m glad I’m not the one that is responsible for making all of these decisions. I’d much rather be a GM right now that’s having to debate trading a major component of a franchise or not and praying he doesn’t leave in free agency if he doesn’t resign (I’m looking at you, Mr. Yzerman). It seems as though at the end of the day, dealing with player contracts that don’t yield $500 million in expansion fees is much easier to crunch than well, what I just said about expansion fees.

Finally, thank you to the NHL, NWHL, CWHL, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Pride, and hockey fans everywhere for joining forces and continuing to support Denna Laing. It’s incredible to see the outpouring of compassion by the hockey community and helps make the world a better place.

I’ve seen some bad injuries in person before and I never want to have to see another stretcher on the ice again, but it’s nice to know and see how positive Denna Laing has remained through the last month and has given a newfound hope for us all to see that anything is possible and dreams may come true.

Let’s let our professional women’s athletes play another outdoor game as part of the Winter Classic festivities, let’s let our player’s play, and let’s have it televised, because there’s no reason to believe that women’s hockey is any less thrilling than men’s hockey.