Every sports league tries to be as innovative as possible, and it’s all in the name of expanding their fan base. Sometimes it works, i.e., baseball night games. Sometimes it doesn’t, like with hockey’s mid 90’s infrared puck. Well, you can file the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic under the “it works” category, as it has been a great success for over ten years now. Every year, the NHL schedules three games to be played by top teams in special locations.
On top of that, the games are played outside as hockey was meant to be played. These games have been a great ratings ploy for the league. The fans, as well as the gamblers, have taken notice.
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There are three features a hockey gambler loves about the Winter Classic. First is that this is always a good matchup between two stellar teams. Secondly, the game is not really a home or road game for anyone as a large neutral site is usually needed to accommodate the crowd as well as the rink. And third, it’s outside, so now the weather can be a big factor and great equalizer. Of course, this is what the fans like about the Winter Classic too, but, to sports gamblers, these three things add value to every wager, and there’s nothing more important than that.
Betting on Winter Classic
The Winter Classic is completely unique to all other forms of hockey, and with that comes a host of big issues that punters should be aware of. The research will take more than merely looking at the head to head record and looking over the league table. Both of these aspects remain important, but they aren’t as critical as they would be should the match be played indoors.
It is impossible to ensure winning bets every time you bet on the Winter Classic, but there are factors and trends that all punters must be aware of before placing their bets.
Away Sides Dominate
We have briefly mentioned that it took until the third game of the Winter Classic for a home side to win, and that trend is one of the biggest ones that punters should be aware of. The away side won eight of the first ten games in the Winter Classic. This could be down to a host of factors, but one that has more traction than most is distractions. The pressure of playing in front of your home fans on a larger scale is a different kind of pressure than most players are used to, and this certainly has an impact on the game.
Not just that, but they will be down as the home side since they are playing in their home city, but they will be playing on a rink that they are unfamiliar to and in a building or stadium that they have no previous experience of. As well as that, family and friends will be pleading for tickets for the game too, which adds another layer of demand on every player.
In contrast to that, the away sides don’t have to deal with a lot, and just have to turn up to the venue and attempt to win the game while putting on a show for the record-breaking number of fans watching from home. However, it is important to remember that all the home sides won the 2017 classics, so it isn’t unheard of for home dominance. But, the record books aren’t exactly brimmed with examples of home wins in the Winter Classic.
A lot of the team’s that take part in the Winter Classic have played in previous editions, so it is important to look into have they have performed on previous occasions. The Blackhawks lost three of their first four, while the Flyers lost on all three appearances. Meanwhile, the Rangers have been the best side in recent years in the Winter Classic as they have won on all four previous appearances. The trends from the Classics are the most important factors that punters should look at as they are more important than the rest results of the sides.
This is another important aspect that punters should be aware of and does have a big impression of which way the game might go. Unlike when the games are played indoors, the elements outside see the younger players perform better than, the older ones. Of course, it isn’t a proven fact, but punters would much rather back the younger guy to perform better than the older players. The conditions can often be grueling as the ice can be slushy should the weather be too warm, and the high winds mean that players need to work harder on the ice.
The Winter Classic isn’t the only classic that is played in the NHL, as there are two other occasions that punters can look out for. The Winter Classic is the most popular, but these other two are also popular due to them being unique for fans.
This classic was the first to be introduced in the NHL and is one of the regular-season games. However, unlikely the other two classics, this game isn’t played every single season and instead only five games have been played since its inception in 2003. Also, unlike the other two, theis classic is typically played between Canadian sides due to the home of the sport being in that country.
The first matchup saw the Edmonton Oilers take on the Montreal Canadiens in Edmonton. This match was also the first NHL regular-season game to be played outdoors. The next edition of this game didn’t take place in 2011 in Calgary. That game broke a host of sponsorship and revenue records. The third and fourth games were played in Vancouver and Winnipeg in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The most recent Heritage Classic was played in Saskatchewan in October 2019. The only Canadian team to have not played in the Heritage Classic is the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, they have appeared in the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series game.
Stadium Series Game
The most recent addition to the NHL calendar game in January 2014 when the first Stadium Series game was played. It is different from the other two classic games as there isn’t one specific date when this game is played, as it can be played in either January, February or March. It is also the only series that is played only in the USA. The first Stadium Series game came in 2014 and saw seven-team competing over four games in three venues across the country. The teams involved in the inaugural event were the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, New York Ranger, New Jersey Devils, New York Islands, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. The venues for this inaugural event were the Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium and Soldier Field.
The most recent series took place in February 2019 at the Lincoln Financial Field, and that saw the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. Meanwhile, the 2020 event will also take place in February and will see the Colorado Avalanche host the Los Angeles Kings at Falcon Stadium. This series and the Heritage Classic are both fun for fans and punters, but they aren’t considered as prestigious as the Winter Classic.
History of the Winter Classic
The history of the Winter Classic is one of the more modern concepts, and despite early resistance, they were finally able to bring the idea to life in 2006. The idea was embraced by John Collins, who was the Executive VP for the NHL. The idea was initially knocked back in 2014 as the NHL didn’t believe that the concept made much sense and had a variety of reasons why the idea wouldn’t work. However, time has taught us that the idea really does work, and fans look forward to this game every year.
It is one of three outdoors games to be played over the course of the NHL season, but the Winter Classic is the most beloved. The game typically takes place on or around New Year’s Day, and that has certainly played a part in its popularity with the fans. The fact that outdoors is the true home of hockey also ensures that it is a success, and the NHL calendar wouldn’t feel the same without the Winter Classic anymore.
The first Winter Classic was held on New Year’s Day in 2008 and saw the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres go head to head at the Ralph Wilson Stadium in New York. The match was attended by a record-breaking crowd of 71,217, and any doubt over the fans embracing the concept were firmly met with a solid answer.
The success of this opening match saw the 2008 game quickly announced, but this time it would be the Detroit Red Wings taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago at Wrigley Field. Once again the event captivated audiences around the country, and the game broke the record for the highest-viewing hockey game in 33 years. History was made in the following year’s event as the Boston Bruins became the first side to win the Winter Classic as the home side at Fenway Park.
The 2011 and 2012 games both went ahead despite weather warnings, with the fears of the NHL realized. However, it was only delayed as the NHL refused to give up on the concept that was bringing so much interest to the sport. The 2011 game was played in Pittsburgh, while the 2012 game returned to New York.
Preview Winter Classic Fixtures
|Year||Winning Team||Losing Team||Score||Venue|
|2008||Pittsburgh Penguins||Buffalo Sabres||2-1 (SO)||Ralph Wilson Stadium|
|2009||Detroit Red Wings||Chicago Blackhawks||6-4||Wrigley Field|
|2010||Boston Bruins||Philadelphia Flyers||2-1 (OT)||Fenway Park|
|2011||Washington Capitals||Pittsburgh Penguins||3-1||Heinz Field|
|2012||New York Rangers||Philadelphia Flyers||3-2||Citizens Bank Park|
|2013||Neither: Game cancelled due to lockout||Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings||Cancelled||Michigan Stadium|
|2014||Toronto Maple Leafs||Detroit Red Wings||3-2 (SO)||Michigan Stadium|
|2015||Washington Capitals||Chicago Blackhawks||3-2||Nationals Park|
|2016||Montreal Canadiens||Boston Bruins||5-1||Gillette Stadium|
|2017||St Louis Blues||Chicago Blackhawks||4-1||Busch Stadium|
|2018||New York Rangers||Buffalo Sabres||3-2 (OT)||Citi Field|
|2019||Boston Bruins||Chicago Blackhawks||4-2||Notre Dame Stadium|
The 2019 Winter Classic will be played between the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars at the Cotton Bowl.
Controversies Surrounding the Winter Classic
The biggest issues that have surrounded the Winter Classic has been the weather. Those initial fears from the NHL were finally realized in 2011 and 2012 when the games were forced to be delayed due to the rain and other weather conditions playing a part. Of course, both games still went ahead, but there were a lot of people that feared that one cancelled game would be the end to the Winter Classic and that it needed to be played. There were also those fans that thought the games should have been called off due to the weather conditions, possibly putting the players in danger.
Another factor that has been important in the Winter Classic is the sunlight and wind. When typical NHL games are played, they are normally indoors, which means these factors aren’t eligible. However, with the outdoor games, the wind or sun glare may give one side an unfair advantage. However, this was reviewed by the NHL, and they have made changes so that both sides will have half the time facing both conditions. This sees the game stopped at the halfway point and the teams swap halves. This has come into practice on four occasions, with two of these occasions also seeing teams swap sides during overtime to ensure that no team had any complaints at the end. It was a smart move by the NFL and one that fans have applauded.
The future remains bright for the Winter Classic, as it was recently revealed that sports broadcaster NBC has renewed the game to be part of the NHL schedule until at least the 1st January 2021.
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