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NHL Winter Classic Guide

nhl-guide-winter-classic

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. The 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 and the rink.

And third, it’s outside, so now the weather can be a big factor and a 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 NHL Winter Classic

The Winter Classic is completely unique to all other forms of hockey, and with that comes a host of big issues that bettors 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 gamblers must be aware of before placing their bets.


Away Sides Dominate

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 bettors 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, which certainly impacts 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 with 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. In essence, they 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 teams 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 in the Winter Classic in recent years 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.


Players’ Ages

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.


Other NHL Classics

The Winter Classic isn’t the only classic that is played in the NHL, as there are two other occasions that bettors can look out for. The Winter Classic is the most popular, but these other the two other unique events for fans.


Heritage Classic

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. Instead, only five games have been played since its inception in 2003. Also, unlike the other two, this 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 Hamilton, Ontario. On this occasion, the Toronto Maple Leafs were beaten 5-2 by the Buffalo Sabres.


Stadium Series Game

The most recent addition to the NHL calendar game came 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 sevens competing over four games in three venues. The teams involved in the inaugural event were the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islands, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Chicago Blackhawks. The venues for this inaugural event were Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Soldier Field.


History of the NHL Winter Classic

The history of the Winter Classic is one of the more modern concepts, and despite early resistance, they finally brought the idea to life in 2006. The idea was embraced by John Collins, who was the Executive VP for the NHL. The concept was initially knocked back in 2014 as the NHL didn’t believe that the plan made much sense and had various 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 outdoor 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, which has certainly played a part in its popularity with the fans. Meanwhile, the fact that the 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 was firmly met with a solid answer.

Meanwhile, 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.


Previous NHL 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 canceled due to lockout Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings Canceled 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
2020 Dallas Stars Nashville Predators 4-2 Cotton Bowl
2021 Canceled due to COVID-10 Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues N/A Target Field
2022 St. Louis Blues Minnesota Wild 6-4 Target Field
2023 N/A Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Fenway Park

Controversies Surrounding the NHL Winter Classic

The biggest issue that has 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.

However, both games still went ahead, but a lot of people feared that one canceled game would be the end of 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 issues aren’t a factor. However, with outdoor games, the wind or sun glare may give one side an unfair advantage.

However, the NHL reviewed this, 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. Meanwhile, 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 NHL and one that fans have applauded.

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