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2019 just around the corner, it’s time to take a brief break from the football (at
least for one article) and give some love to the National Hockey League!
Yes, on January 1st at Noon (CT) on NBC, the NHL trots out two of its oldest franchises for the annual Winter Classic outdoor hockey game. This year, the venue will be none other than South Bend, Indiana at historic Notre Dame Stadium!
sellout crowd of nearly 80,000 fans will brave the elements (the forecast is a
chance of snow with a high temperature of 34 degrees) to watch the Chicago
Blackhawks face-off with the Boston Bruins.
Though neither team is atop their division entering the new year, fans
of these two storied franchises will get to experience the fun of watching hockey
played where it all began – outdoors.
Year’s Day match-up will mark the fourth appearance in the Winter Classic for
Chicago and Boston’s third time in the event.
“The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.
The annual NHL Winter Classic began in 2008 as a regular-season outdoor game and is hosted at a unique venue at the onset of the new year. This will be the eleventh consecutive Winter Classic game and marks the first time that the Blackhawks have faced off against the Bruins in the outdoor extravaganza.
The Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins are part of the NHL’s “original six” teams. The other four teams (Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadians, and Toronto Maple Leafs) were all founded in or around the 1920’s.
Surprisingly to your SwampSwami, these six
teams comprised the NHL for the next forty years until the league expanded in
1967. The NHL then doubled in size in 1967 by adding
teams in Los Angeles, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and San
If you’re trying to figure out what happened to the San Francisco franchise (then known as the California Golden Seals), the team played in the Bay area until 1976. The franchise then moved to Cleveland and played two more seasons (under the name “Cleveland Barons”) before folding and being merged into the Minnesota North Stars operation in 1978.
Today, the NHL operates in 31 markets. Though the league has a television contract
with NBC Sports for another three years, most televised professional hockey games
are relegated to a cable sports affiliate of NBC.
The NHL’s Winter Classic will go head-to-head for
viewership Tuesday against ESPN’s college football Fiesta Bowl featuring 9-3 LSU
against the undefeated University of Central Florida and ABC’s Citrus Bowl game
between 9-3 Kentucky and 9-3 Penn State.
The NHL is hoping that viewers will be attracted
to the unique annual outdoor spectacle and become new fans of the sport.
Hockey has longed for its place in the annual
sports spectrum, but it continues to battle with football and, later, the NBA
and baseball for viewership.
For this one glorious day, though, hockey fans around
North America will enjoy the sport being played in the great outdoors in front
of a stadium filled with cheering and fervent supporters along with a curious national
The NHL hopes that planting this annual seed
will result in millions of new fans for generations to come.