NHL OUTDOOR GAMES: WHAT’S NEXT?

Hey! Hockey Fans! Stop complaining about the cold weather or the Polar Vortex…if we didn’t have cold winters, we wouldn’t have HOCKEY! EY!
We wouldn’t have Outdoor Hockey Games either…Ooops!
That’s not completely true is it?
AN OUTDOOR HOCKEY GAME IN CALIFORNIA…!
REALLY!
Who could have predicted the popularity of the NHL outdoor games and that the NHL would schedule 6 REGULAR SEASON OUTDOOR GAMES in the 2013-14 season. This past week alone, as part of the “Stadium Series”, there were 3 such games in 5 days; including two games at the legendary Yankee Stadium, in New York and an OUTDOOR GAME IN CALIFORNIA at the Dodger Stadium, in Los Angeles. REALLY!!!

Honestly, I was one of many who didn’t believe that they could pull it off in California!

Was the National Hockey League going overboard? Were they pushing the envelope a little too far? There were many possible uncontrollable destructive factors to consider: The sun, the rain, the humidity, the heat… It could be disastrous if the ice conditions would force a cancellation. And what about fan interest? Would Californians have any interest in an outdoor hockey game?

Well, “chapeau” to the NHL. The “star studded” event was attended by 54,099 fans and viewed on TV by millions. The ice and the hockey conditions were fine. It was awesome! Wayne Gretzky, dropping the ceremonial face off was a nice touch and KISS as entertainment was… well …You can’t win’em all…!

Did you know that large scale outdoor hockey games are not such a novel idea after all? Some Olympic games were played outdoors in the early 1900’s. The 1957 gold medal game between the Soviet Union and Sweden at the Lenin Stadium in Moscow attracted approximately 55,000 fans, a number that stood as a record for more than 40 years
Since 2001, there have been 107 outdoor hockey games in North America and Europe. You can look up the list of games at this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_outdoor_ice_hockey_games
(Wikipedia is my new BFF)

The first NHL experiment with outdoor games was in Edmonton in 2003. The “Heritage Classic” featured the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. It was a natural. Two Canadian teams playing their National sport in its natural settings. It was a “hit”. Even though the weather was -2F, hockey fans loved it and the players embraced the event.

In 2008, the yearly “Winter Classic” was born in snowy Buffalo when the Sabres played a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was followed with games at Wrigley Field, in Chicago, Fenway Park, in Boston, Heinz Field, in Pittsburgh and Citizens Bank Park, in Philadelphia.

Detroit had two years because of the NHL lockout, to prepare for the next event at the Michigan Stadium, in Ann Arbor, Michigan where 105,491 fans attended.

My wife, Nicole and I attended the Winter Classic games in Chicago and in Ann Arbor. We had a great time at both events. I missed some of the games’ action because I wanted to experience the moment. Fans parading in their team’s colors ignoring the elements, the spirited atmosphere and the overall spectacle that the NHL provided are forever engraved as a great memory.

Sports Illustrated columnist Dan Shaughnessy said of the Winter Classic, “Now hockey owns New Year’s Day the way baseball owns the Fourth of July and football owns Thanksgiving.”

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

The NHL must keep it fresh and entertaining for their fans. Avoid complacency and over saturating the market.

WHAT ABOUT NHL OUTDOOR GAMES IN EUROPE? Why not? Possibilities are now endless…What about Florida???

…and for the sake of the more “mature fans”, what about a group like the EAGLES as entertainment? KISS was a little over the top…!

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
PHIL MYRE

43 YEARS IN THE NHL FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Bobby Orr wrote a book called “MY STORY” which came out recently. It was on my list to Santa this year and she came through, the book was under the Christmas tree. Reading Bobby’s book, I was particularly interested in his humble beginnings, playing “shinny” hockey on a pond and playing just for the fun of it. We both came from the same era and I can relate to many of the stories he tells in the book.
Living in Rigaud, a small town west of Montreal, near the Ontario border, there wasn’t much of anything that was organized for kids. During the winter, we played hockey for fun, skating on outdoor rinks and ponds for entertainment.
I lived on “rue Ste-Madeleine”. The boys on the street all got together to build our own skating skating rink. The Cadieux family had a large lot across the street from my house. They would leave a window unlocked which opened into their basement so that we could pull out the hose to water the rink. It was kept inside to prevent it from freezing. We built our rink from scratch with snow and water. We made the perimeter by piling up snow, making it as square as possible and watering it. It was our “chef-d’oeuvre” our pride…It was ours. We would scrape it when it snowed; water it at night so that we could have good ice the next day. If there was a thaw, we would simply rebuild it. We skated after school and week-ends as long as the two lights installed at each end of the house would allow us to see or until we were called home or told to leave. Sometimes, we would practice our shots against the house which wasn’t much appreciated by the home owners.
It seemed like a big rink at the time but when I returned as an adult, the yard wasn’t as big as I imagined it; just like the hill I used to walk up to go to school which felt a whole lot bigger and steeper than it really is. (I guess I must have walked uphill both ways, in the snow, as the saying goes)
There was one set of goalie equipment which nobody wanted to wear. So I often volunteered to be the goalie. Not that we kept score but it was nice to have goalies. “You can’t live with them but can’t live without them” is one of my favorite sayings. I was infatuated by goalies as a young boy. At a very young age, I used to get up early I the morning, throw a ball against the door and use the stair posts leading upstairs for my net. I pretended to be Jacques Plante or my favorite goalie, Terry Sawchuck. My imaginary team won the Stanley Cup many times . . . and, of course, I was the hero each time.
Those were the days when hockey was played for fun. There was no pressure, there were no expectations. Pro hockey and the NHL were like something from outer space. We idolized the players and loved to watch the game on TV on Saturday nights, but it was certainly something that was out of reach for a young boy from Rigaud. We dreamed of playing in the NHL but it was never something that was real. Believe it or not, the first “live” NHL game that I attended in person, I actually played in it…
It was only when I moved to LaSalle, a suburb of Montreal, at 12 years old, that I played organized hockey and, as fate would have it, it was as a goalie.
My NHL story begins at a bus stop in LaSalle when my friend Roger Peloquin told me he was going to a Bantam tryout that night. I had no idea what a tryout was or what Bantam meant but I wanted to be a part of it. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had not been at that bus stop on that specific cold September morning.
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
PHIL MYRE

IS FIGHTING IN THE NHL ON THE WAY OUT?

There’s no doubt about it! Fighting in the NHL is on “Life support”! Will the NHL pull the plug?
As long as I remember, there was fighting in the NHL. It’s been a tradition, inbred in the minds of hockey fans for decades. It has served as a neutralizer, a deterrent to “cheap shots” and it also served to discourage those players who are faint of heart from playing in the NHL. I always supported fighting in our game. I felt that it was necessary to avoid a lot of stick work and cheap shots from players who know that there’s no consequence other than a possible penalty.
Hockey is a tough sport. It’s physical, it’s fast and it’s emotional and intense. Injuries are bound to happen. However, the league can no longer allow its players to deliberately cause each other injuries as part of the game.
Today’s technological culture, public opinion, legal issues and media are forcing the NHL to make a decision on fighting. “Banish hockey fights or make it difficult and costly for players to fight!” Games are all on TV with multiple cameras taking High Definition live pictures. Social Media and networks pick up the most unusual events and blow them out of proportion. The increasing number of head injuries and a former players’ lawsuit are forcing the NHL to pay more attention to the protection and health of their players.
Like the NHL, hockey fans, including myself, must come to the realization that it’s over. Inevitably, the visor will become mandatory. It will, by its nature, curb fighting. I watched fights in the CHL where visors are mandatory. I find it to be barbaric and a senseless demonstration of two players hitting each other’s helmet and visor and risking injury to their hands more than causing injury to their pugilistic opponent. It’s absurd and our “young players” should not be subjected to it.
I’s no longer a question of IF… Fighting will be phased out…But one WHEN and HOW. When it happens, the league will absolutely need to act severely on players who are guilty of “stick infractions” and unnecessary “charging” infractions. Because some players will be a lot “braver” if they don’t have that fear that some tough guy is going to beat their brains out. One suggestion is that the guilty players of such infractions serve the full length of the penalty regardless of the number of goals scored. Fines and suspensions will need to be maximized as well.
Yes, the good ole days of the “Broad Street Bullies” and the “Big Bad Bruins” are over. In the “New NHL”, only a few players fight anyway. The tough guys fight each other and it really has little effect on the outcome of the game.
So let’s move on, pull the plug and let fighting die of natural death… and get accustomed to the mandatory visor and look forward to the day when the first NHL player wears a full facial cage…
Yes I believe that it will come…Food for thought…
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
PHIL MYRE

THANKSGIVING DAY GRATITUDE!

Thanksgiving Day is around the corner. That Holiday has always been very special for me. It’s a good time for reflection, for appreciation for what you have and time to say THANK YOU for the things that you love. Here are a few things that I’m thankful for this Holiday Season:

THANK YOU FOR WINTER:

Without the cold Canadian winters, there would be no snow. Without snow there would have been no outdoor rinks. Without outdoor rinks, there would be no HOCKEY!

THANK YOU FOR WATER:

Without water, there would be no ICE. Without ice we couldn’t skate. If we can’t skate, there would be no HOCKEY!

THANK YOU FOR TREES:

Without trees, there would be NO WOOD. Without wood there would be no HOCKEY STICKS. (Titanium and composite didn’t exist in early 1900. Although they did have one piece sticks) Without sticks we couldn’t shoot the pucks. Therefore there would be no HOCKEY!

THANK YOU FOR RUBBER:

Without rubber there would be no PUCKS!  Without pucks we would have nothing to score with. Therefore there would be no HOCKEY! (Otherwise, we might be playing hockey with “cow turd”…)

THANK YOU FOR IRON ORE

Without iron, there would be no BLADES FOR SKATES. Without blades, we would have no skates. Therefore there would be no HOCKEY!

THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING ELSE…

Of course I’m thankful for all the other things in my life like family, health, friends and all that stuff…

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Phil Myre