I like hockey, but don't watch much until the NHL playoffs. But for the past three years, I've spent part of New Year's Day watching the Winter Classic, games played outdoors. It's a great concept and much more compelling than watching just another bowl game.
This year's was played at Fenway Park and saw the Boston Bruins rally to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime, 2-1. The setting was magical and you could tell the players were really jazzed to be a part of it. It was an event more than just another regular season game.
Watching the game, it did bring back memories for me of playing pond hockey in Pennsylvania, though I always played in sneakers since I was an abysmal skater. As the sun set in Boston and night descended, the game had one big advantage over my pond hockey days -- high-wattage lights that allowed them to keep playing.
The now-annual event (held in Buffalo, Chicago and Boston) has quickly become an institution and I wonder where the 2011 game will be held. The atmospherics were so cool that I watched the pregame show.
One nice moment was a tribute to Bobby Orr, where current players spoke in reverence about how he changed the game. When I wrote about Mikey, the closeted 17-year-old hockey player who blogs, someone who doubted he was real based it on Mikey's favorite player being Orr, as if a 17-year-old could not possibly have a sense of hockey history. Watching players not much older than Mikey speak about Orr tells me that hockey is one sport where tradition and history hold strong. The Winter Classic confirms that.