An Obstructed View from the Roost

By Chris

For anyone who was there, no matter what team you were cheering for, there is one undeniable fact.

The Winter Classic was awesome.

It was one of the most communal, emotional events I have ever experienced and probably will never experience again, at least not at that level. To put it simply, I agree with everything Ryan said Tuesday night. It was an afternoon no hockey fan will soon, if ever, forget.

Sure there were a few miscues here and there. It may have taken too long for the ice crews to fix the ice during delays, but at least they took the time to make sure it was right. What bugged me the most about the cleaning was that they didn’t bring the Zambonis out for the shootout, which is actually normal NHL procedure. But if that is my biggest gripe (aside from switching ends in the five minute overtime being stupid), then there obviously wasn’t much to complain about.

I just wish Brian Campbell would have been looking forward to the “f*cking stupid Ice Bowl” as much as the fans were (skip to about 35 seconds in). Eh, who knows? Maybe he really was. He does look a little tipsy while trying to sing the Hip.

For the most part, again echoing Ryan, what struck me the most was that the NHL didn’t screw it up. For such a huge event, it was very-well organized, there was stuff to do outside of the usual tailgating and added to the festive atmosphere.

And did anyone else find it weird that it didn’t snow a flake during intermissions, but then as soon as the players headed out of the tunnel, the flurries started to fall again?

The tailgating was fun in itself. Having the television crews for the NHL Network and RDS patrolling our area added to the excitement. Then again that’s maybe just because Jon and I snuck into the Rick Jeanerette “Lalalafontaine” tribute, and just because RDS put me on camera for the Gilbert Perreault jersey I had on (if anyone can find that, if it even made the air, feel free to shoot us an e-mail. We all like to laugh at me).

Should the NHL pull off this event again? From a publicity and marketing standpoint, yes. But all of the factors need to be there to make it special and not just a rehashing of the last two outdoor games. The place needs to be right and, if the league wants America to start caring about hockey again (and if they want to increase revenues even more, including a big TV deal, I think they would), then the game would most likely have to be played stateside between two American teams.

For the best publicity and for the largest money-making machine, Rangers-Islanders at either Yankee Stadium or in the Meadowlands may be the best bet. Or wait until the new Gopher Stadium is built in Minnesota. Wild v. Dallas or Detroit would be amazing. The best idea I think I’ve read/heard so far is for Buffalo and Pittsburgh to host the event against each other every year. This way it stays exclusive and it’s still an event, like Detroit and Dallas hosting Thanksgiving football games. On another thought, why not do the All-Star game outdoors?

I thought the pregame ceremonies for the Winter Classic were very well-done. Doug Allen is a Roost favorite and Ronan Tynan is a winner (I can’t believe there are actually complaints that they sang “God Bless America” and not the national anthem. They have done this every time Tynan has sung for the Sabres. My best guess is that those complaining don’t watch Sabres games so I’m not going to waste too much energy here). The fly-by by the Blackhawk helicopters was also stunning and chilling.

And the crowd?

You can’t say enough about the job the fans did. You could cut the tension with a knife as the game went into the shootout. Everyone was tuned into the game the whole time. I was up on my feet with everyone else in the lower bowl from faceoff to Crosby’s clincher. Buffalo looked great in the national limelight, and while I really really really really had a great time, I hope something like this doesn’t come back to Buffalo, at least for a couple years. It was special and to overdo it would most definitely cheapen a unique but already kind-of-gimmicky event.

As the Sabres prep for Ottawa tomorrow night, there are certainly some questions and concerns that face this team. The offense isn’t producing and fingers are already being pointed in Thomas Vanek’s direction.

And rightfully so.

Vanek is a -3 with just one point, an assist, in his last five games. He had 84 points last year and finished with a league-leading +47. Now as a top line player, he’s on pace for just 24 goals, 48 points and a +7 rating. Whether it’s the money or just the pressure of being the go-to-guy, his head clearly isn’t in the right place. And that bodes very badly for this hockey club down the stretch if he continues going in that direction.

Miller has been solid and seems to be getting better and he’s bound to snap at some point about the shotty defense that’s being played in front of him. I mean, could Campbell at least TOUCH Crosby on that first goal? The guy skated right at him and Campbell backed off like he was scared. Or maybe he was just cold.

The team isn’t playing great, they are on a four game losing streak, despite getting two shootout points in those games, but with Ottawa coming to town, they need to step it up. With Ottawa struggling, including back-to-back barn burning losses to the Capitals and psycho goalie Ray Emery supposedly walking out on a practice this week, it’s as good a time as any to beat up on the Sens.

And with 11 of the next 14 games on the road, this team better get out of the funk fast and play some quality hockey, otherwise the season will end on April 5 in Boston.

With the games ahead looking like they could be kind of bleak, it was great to be able to enjoy a day like January 1. Overall, New Year’s Day was a fantastic day that really kicked off the second half of the season. With only basketball and hockey as the two professional leagues playing right now, this event was the perfect statement to tell America that hockey still matters in some parts of the world. Maybe this was the spark the NHL needs to leapfrog the NBA.

My only regret from Tuesday? That I (stupidly) taped the NBC broadcast over CBC. I’ve lived in Western New York all my life, you’d think I’d know better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get my Perreault jersey cleaned. It smells like charcoal, wet snow, and Dr. Bob (long story). On second thought, maybe I’ll hold on to it smelling like that for just a few more days. What a day.