Sunday, January 22, 2012

AHL Outdoor Classic at Hamilton

With the enormous success of the outdoor hockey game concept, it seems like every team is going outdoors to grow the game in their regional areas. From every level - major juniors to US colleges, to even local high schools here in Pittsburgh have been romanced by the outdoor tradition. Then along comes the giant spectacle of an Outdoor classic that features two American Hockey League rivals the Hamilton Bulldogs and Toronto Marlies. I didn't get to watch this game live, as it was not aired on TV in my area. So, I wrote this a day later having watched the tape delay on the NHL Network (US).

The positives....
Cathie Coward/The Hamilton Spectator
First off, the noticing of the uniforms of the participating Marlies and 'Dogs. It altered the notion that an Outdoor game would be a "turn back the clock" game where each participating team uses a heritage design in their jersey. Unfortunately for the Marlies, their team is only a few years old having been relocated from St. Johns, Newfoundland. In my opinion, I think they could have invoked the heritage of their namesake the OHL's Toronto Marlboros of 1903 (currently existing as the Guelph Storm), but since there is currently a Junior 'A' team using the Malboros name and logo, I'm guessing that's not an option for them. On the other side of the ticket was the home team of Hamilton Bulldogs playing in the historical Ivory Wynn Stadium where the CFL's Hamilton Bulldogs play. I liked their throwback jersey featuring the drawstring tie and red white and khaki color scheme. It lets you know that the Bulldogs are the Canadians affiliate while maintaining their own local Hamilton identity. Compared to the Flames Outdoor classic uniforms of last year, the Hamiltonians actually made me want to search around to see if I could buy a replica jersey.

The second thing was impressive was that the reported 20,000 seats sold in the old Hamilton football stadium. While not exactly the kind of star-powered line-up and backed by a multi-million dollar advertising campaign, the event organizers should consider this a big success.

Some of the negatives,....
Thirdly, based upon the broadcast that I saw, it truly looked second rate to have the Rogers Sportsnet media crew sharing one folding table while talking about the game? They braved the cold air at rinkside huddled together. Could they not do it from the press box? There they would also be aided by additional media needs like monitors for replay. Could Rogers Sportsnet have been going through it "throwback style" as well as minimalists?

Then there was the matter of the game itself. If you were a Toronto fan, you enjoyed the game. But if you are hoping for the Bulldogs to show up on their home ice, there was something missing. Goals. The 7-2 lopsided event had to have quieted the crowd. It wasn't an nail-biting finish in OT or nearly a low scoring close game as the NHL has hosted, but the

So, should this game actually overshadow the other recent outdoor AHL game featuring the Phantoms and Bears at the Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia? That game went to OT and instead got second billing to the Jan. 2nd Winter Classic. Should the AHL and other leagues around the continent host their own outdoor classic? Will the upsurge in all these new events water down the NHL's mega corporate sponsored telecast once a year spectacle? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section of this website.
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