Over the last few years there has been a growing murmur regarding the novelty of the NHL's Winter Classic. The "Oh it's been done" crowd has had its share of the New Years Event.
Many times they argue that the game doesn't Live up to the hype.
I ask you, what does live up to any hype nowadays?
The Super Bowl? Nope
Big UFC fights, rarely
Stanley Cup Finals, sometimes.
The Winter Classic is less about the hype and the spectacle and more about the one glowingly wonderful aspect of the game.
It's played outside in the cold.
That's where we all grew up. Well most of who lived in the colder climates.
As you all know I grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Cold, Flat, wonderful and oh yeah did I mention COLD?
But that cold had its advantages mainly outdoor rinks. We had a small rink in our backyard and four outdoor school rinks within walking distance.
I would get to the rink, sit on the snowbank and strap on the blades.
Sometimes other kids would be there, sometimes I was by myself.
On nights my team wasn't playing I was at any one of those rinks, in the cold, in the dark playing out my hockey fantasy. I was always Bobby Orr scoring the winning goal to win the Cup.
I would play until I shot the puck over the boards and couldn't find it in the snowbank or until "the streetlights came on" as my Grandmother would say or until my Mom or Dad would drive over to the school and tell me to "Get Home!"
They wouldn't wait for me either. So back on the snowbank, out of the skates, slide my freezing feet into a frozen solid pair of boots, sling the skates over my stick, stick over my shoulder and head home, smiling all the way.
The "ODR" (as my boys call it) is where I fell in love. . It's where you just PLAYED hockey. No structure, no coaches, no drills, just a raw naive innocent unabashed love for the game.
So when I ignore or strip away all the hype, the spectacle, the fans, the TV, the names, the everything of the Winter Classic, I am left with the game I love played in its simplest and most wonderful form.