2015 Winter Classic pits storied franchise vs league’s best scorer

2015 Winter Classic Logo

The 2015 Winter Classic will be hosted by the nation’s capital as the Washington Capitals face off against the Chicago Blackhawks. The New Year’s Day marquee game will be the first hosted in Washington D.C. It will be the second appearance for each team. Chicago also hosted a Stadium Series game last season.

The Winter Classic is now in it’s 7th edition, and has grown into something much larger than one game.

“I noticed today just counting up, since our first NHL outdoor telecast at Ralph Wilson Stadium, that was seven years ago there have been 110 of these games played,” said Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, NBC’s play-by-play announcer for the Winter Classic. “Hershey Park Stadium, Red Square, nine other countries, Mexico City, and 17 of the 110 have been at Fenway Park.  It has taken on quite a life and each one of them has its own set of memories and I know this one will, too.” [Read more…]

How the NHL Can Increase Its Fan Base

Coming off the Winter Classic on January 2nd, NHL executives are looking to capitalize on the increased viewership of the novelty game and build on it. The contest had nearly fifty thousand fans in attendance along with a national audience on NBC. The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers provided an entertaining afternoon of action culminating with a penalty shot near the end of regulation.

[Read more…]

Great Hawks Players You haven’t heard of

By Paul M. Banks

Now that being a Chicago Blackhawks fan is as trendy now as it was in the 60s during the franchise’s glory days, the team’s marquee players: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and (to a lesser extent) Brian Campbell are all essentially local celebrities. But this team has some other All-Star level talent that you’ve never heard of. They’re currently fourth in the Western Conference despite having no one among the top 40 in the league in scoring- a testament to their depth. Beyond “Kaner,” “Taser,” and “Soupy,” (are you picking up the unofficial hockey player nickname generating formula yet?) these are the names you should know.

Patrick Sharp- “Sharpie,” the team’s leader in goals scored may be the most underrated player on the squad.

Duncan Keith- not to be confused with 90s one-hit wonder Duncan Sheik, he’s the Hawks other blue-liner with an All-Star appearance on his resume.

Kris Versteeg- Hawks bench boss Joel Quenneville described the NHL’s rookie scoring leader thusly: “He’s a competitive guy that doesn’t get distracted by any of the stuff that goes on during a game: got good quickness, good imagination without the puck.”

Martin Havlat- started slow, but came on in January, when the team badly needed an offensive lift and is now second on the team (behind Kane) in scoring.

Goalie tandem of Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin- Although they tried to shop Khabibulin earlier in the season, the fact that he’s playing solid hockey here now is a warm, fuzzy feeling. When the playoffs come, having both the Bulin Wall and Huet, another goalie the Hawks acquired via a big money free-agent contract, sharing the net will be advantageous over other teams that lack fresh goaltending.

In addition to hosting the NHL’s marquee regular season game (Winter Classic), the Hawks have the premier position in three key off-the-ice criteria. The Indian head was voted the most recognized logo in NHL and the Hawks currently lead the league in attendance and merchandise sales. This shows how much they’ve built the brand. If they go far in the ’09 Stanley Cup playoffs, and later make an annual habit of doing so, the names I mentioned above will be instantly recognizable in this city.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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