The game of hockey originated where most sports normally do. The great outdoors. Kids with high hopes of playing in the NHL lace up their skates and step onto a frozen pond and play the sport that they love.
In 2008, the first Winter Classic game was held at Ralph Wilson Stadium in New York. The NHL came up with the idea of the Winter Classic pitting two teams against each other in the wide open world. The fan response was massive. The stadium was sold out, not a seat to be found. The ’08 classic featured the Pittsburgh Penguins and hometown Buffalo Sabres. It snowed during a majority of the game, which was a spectacular sight to see. The score was 1-1 and headed to a shootout. Superstar Sidney Crosby ended up with the game winning goal.
What made that game so great was the weather, the crowd atmosphere, and the game itself. Not only was it a great marketing technique by the league, but it gave players a chance to go back to their roots. Where they first started playing.
The Winter Classic has been held every New Year’s Day up until 2013, where the lockout washed away this year’s game. But that will be made up in 2014, when the Detroit Red Wings will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
That’s not the only outdoor game we are going to see however. The league has taken this to a whole other level. Not only will there be the official Winter Classic in 2014, but there will also be 4 games featured in a “Stadium Series.” 2 of those 4 will be held at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, with our beloved New York Rangers playing in both. The other 2 will be held at Dodger Stadium in LA, and Soldier Field in Chicago.
This will be a great spectacle because all 4 venues have never hosted outdoor hockey games in the past. It will surely be a sight to see.
The Rangers have had experience playing in the outside. They played against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park. Let’s take a quick look at the 2014 Stadium Series games for the Blueshirts.
January 26, 2014- New York Rangers v.s. New Jersey Devils (Stadium Series)
Doesn’t get much better than this. Rangers-Devils, conference rivals, battling it out at Yankee Stadium. This will be a game for the ages. What makes it even better is that this game isn’t being played for fun. It’s being played for two hard earned points in the standings. So it will be taken very seriously.
Players To Watch:
Ryan Callahan- How can anybody dislike Callahan? He plays clean, works hard, and most of the time gets rewarded for his work. He’s not a sniper, or a playmaker, he’s a grinder. He chips away at the other team with hits, solid shots on goal, and most importantly, screening the goaltender and making sure he doesn’t see that puck. He has been my favorite current Ranger for a while now, and probably will be until he retires or leaves the team (which I hope doesn’t happen). There is no doubt in my mind that Callahan will have an impact on this game.
Henrik Lundqvist- Elite goaltender, Vezina winner, one of the best in the business. When he’s between the pipes, he gives his team a chance to win night in and night out. Watch out for some sprawling saves by The King in this one.
Martin Brodeur- Now, this will be interesting because depending on how the Devils’ season goes, their newest acquisition Cory Schneider could be in net for this game. Regardless, it will be a great goaltending matchup. Both Brodeur and Schneider are capable of stealing games. So is Lundqvist however. So this game might be 0-0 heading into overtime or a possible shootout.
Patrik Elias- For some reason I find it hard to hate Patrik Elias. The guy knows what to do and how to do it. He’s a fantastic playmaker, and has a nose for the net. He could be very dangerous in this game and he is worth keeping an eye on.
January 29, 2014- New York Rangers v.s. New York Islanders (Stadium Series)
Because of the Islanders’ recent uprising in 2013, this will be a fantastic game to watch. Regardless if your watching on TV or if your actually there (if you can snag tickets, can I come along?). With the revival on Long Island, perhaps this rivalry will come back to life. The Islanders ran into a long string of bad luck after their most recent Cup win in ’83. They have been off the map for nearly three decades. Their playoff appearance in 2013 was their first since 2007. To be honest, I want to see this rivalry come back. Maybe this will be the game that kickstarts it again.
Players To Watch:
Rick Nash- Dynamic offensive powerhouse. Fits into the Rangers offense nicely, and could snag a couple of points.
Derek Stepan- Pending the contract negotiations this summer, he will also be a key player in this one. After a tremendous season in 2011-12 and 2013, he has formed into the Rangers’ number one center. Something which they haven’t had in years. He has great hockey sense, and can snipe the puck when you least expect it.
John Tavares- Also a key player to watch. The Islanders selected him with the first overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft. That was the best decision they have made in years. He has turned into a solid player and in my opinion will be wearing the C in a few years time. He has shown his skill many times against the Rangers. And that skill will once again be on display in this outdoor classic.
Matt Moulson- When paired with Tavares, these two pack a punch. They have great chemistry and know exactly where the other one is on the ice. Together they can develop some fantastic scoring plays and amaze you. There is no doubt that #91 and #26 will be on the same line come January 29th.
So there you have it. Your Stadium Series preview. Be sure to tune in on your televisions come January. There’s going to be a ton of hockey on display.