Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Not great hockey

The NHL played their Winter Classic today, as 70,000 or so fans came out to see the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Buffalo Sabres in a snow storm.

Watching the last 10 minutes of the game, the announcers were positively poetic in their praise of the atmosphere, the fans, the the memories the game evoked of the pond hockey kids play in the winter. They made it sound like it was just a fantastic time.

And maybe it was. But it had to be a fantastic atmosphere in order to keep people watching, because it was an awful display of hockey. During the third period, the game was stopped over and over again to fix the ice or to clean the snow off of it. When the players weren't standing around waiting for play to resume, they looked like they were skating in mud, as the snow piling up on the ice was slowing everything down. Because of the wind, the teams switched sides at the midway point of both the third period and the overtime, delaying the game even further.

It ended up taking 3 1/2 hours to play a game that would have taken about 2:15 to play had it been played indoors, where stoppages are minimized, playing conditions are ideal, and the speed of the game is evident.

The speed of the game what makes it great. The difference between an NHL game and a game in the minor leagues or college is the speed of the players. Without that, the game loses it's excitement. Even if it's played in a snowstorm.

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