by Mike Chen on 01/02/09 at 04:59 PM ET
I should start off with a disclaimer that I don’t think this idea will necessarily please everyone, nor will it necessarily bring the biggest ratings and/or revenue to the NHL. Heck, I’m not even sure I’d vote for it if I was on the Board of Governors but it’s an idea that got me thinking after it popped in my head, so it couldn’t have been the worst idea in the world. At the very least, it’s an interesting idea that tries to fulfill a few different things.
That being said, here’s a proposed way to spread the Winter Classic love around the league without getting into arguments about what’s a hockey market and what’s not (re: who “deserves” it and who doesn’t). It’s also a way to not kill the Golden Goose of the WC through overexposure.
What if the Winter Classic becomes an every-other-season regular season contest between the last two winners of the Stanley Cup? The team with the better the overall head-to-head record over the past two seasons has the option to host (and considering the revenue/publicity, who would turn it down?).
In theory then, next year’s 2010 Winter Classic would be between the Red Wings and whoever wins this year’s Stanley Cup (there’s obviously have to be some sort of runner-up rule should the Cup be won back to back). If the Wings had won the majority of head-to-head contests between the teams during the 2007-08 season and the 2008-09 season, they would have the option to host.
Then we’d wait a year—no 2011 Winter Classic. The 2012 Winter Classic would be between the 2011 Cup champs and the 2010 Cup champs.
Ok, so what does this do? Let’s review:
1) It provides some regularity to a Winter Classic schedule without overkilling it every season. While this year’s was apparently a massive media success, people can tire of it really fast. The four-year rotation of the Olympics is probably too long, so an every-other-year schedule would keep it fresh in people’s minds without dulling the novelty of it.
2) It allows the Winter Classic to theoretically be held anywhere in the league—but it’s based on success, so teams have to earn it. This will irritate some and satisfy others, but ultimately you’ll never make everyone happy.
3) For so-called non-traditional markets, it cashes in on Stanley Cup success and maintains a team’s high profile in the market. The buzz created by winning a Stanley Cup pushes a team to a new level and maxes out a generation of casual fans. Just look at the Lightning—considering how bad the team was this year and how much of an absolute circus the team is this year, their average attendance of 16,720 isn’t that bad. Vincent Lecavalier was recently voted the area’s favorite athlete and I bet if the Lightning somehow push into the playoffs through a miracle run, the buzz would be easily recreated. It’s kind of like when you work out every day for two years, then you let yourself go—it’s easier to get back into shape than it is to get there the first time. And of course, here’s hoping that no team goes through a post-Cup crash quite like the Bolts did.
4) It takes control of the venue out of the hands of the league and makes the Classic a bit of a reward for winning the Cup. Cause you know that eventually the league would come up with some idea to really mess things up (though I’m sure some could argue that this idea is just that).
In any case, this could just be the insane musings of someone who hasn’t fully decompressed from the nuttiness of the holidays. I have to think about it for a little bit before deciding if it’s a good idea or not. In the meantime, nitpick away.
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