A report coming out of Pittsburgh earlier today states that the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the running to host the 2010-11 NHL Winter Classic. Their opponent would be none other than the Washington Capitals, which would pit two of the NHL’s biggest stars in Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin against each other in what has become one of the biggest highlights of the NHL season.
Neither the Pittsburgh Penguins nor the NHL would confirm the rumor. The host of the Winter Classic is usually announced at the end of the summer along with the upcoming schedule for all of the NHL teams.
If the rumor is true, this would be the second Winter Classic appearance for the Pittsburgh Penguins in three years. The first Winter Classic in 2008 featured the Penguins vs the Buffalo Sabres. Sidney Crosby won the game for the Penguins in the shootout when he beat Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller between the pads. This would also be the third Winter Classic to feature Eastern Conference teams. The only Winter Classic game to feature Western Conference teams was in 2009 when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
If such an event comes into fruition, it would obviously be entertaining not only because Crosby and Ovechkin would both be participating, but also because these are two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference squaring off against one another. Every time they play it’s a potential prequel to a playoff matchup in April or May. Not to mention Ovechkin himself always steps out onto the ice with massive amounts of explosive energy, which alone might make the game worth watching.
On the other hand, do we really need Sidney Crosby to be the star of another NHL event? Well, here’s the problem. Love it or hate it, Crosby is the face of the NHL because he is a top-notch athlete and he speaks fluent English. If the NHL is trying to grow their fan base outside of the normal people who watch hockey, they need to have their best players out on the ice for events like the Winter Classic. As pure fans of the game, we hate the prospect of another Sidney Crosby show. But the NHL loves it because a game that pits Ovechkin against Crosby, two of the NHL’s biggest stars, would most likely bring in tons of outside viewers who don’t normally watch NHL games.
Opponents of this matchup might ponder eliminating the Penguins from the equation and having the Capitals face another rival. Who else would they play? Nobody in their division is worth matching them against for an event like this. Not to mention there isn’t enough star power in the Southeast division to help grow the game the way a Crosby vs Ovechkin matchup would. No deal.
Love it or hate it, this matchup would be stellar for the league itself and bring some badly needed publicity into the mix. As viewership of the Winter Classic rises, the NHL needs to promote its biggest stars in hopes of bringing in even more viewers and keeping them glued to hockey. Crosby and Ovechkin give the NHL the best chance at doing that. Hopefuly in the future as the NHL establishes itself more and more we will finally see the Classic go out West into the warm weather, or maybe even have one on Canadian soil, but until then it’s all about bringing in the viewers and giving them a good show. Pittsburgh and Washington certainly should deliver.