Here's One Vote for Winter Classic II

Over the past few days, there's been plenty of buzz over the possibility that the NHL may hold a second outdoor game on January 1, 2010. Over at Puck Daddy, my friend Sean Leahy doesn't think much of the idea, saying that a second outdoor game dilutes the "excitement and uniqueness" of the event. ↵

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↵Now, as somebody who once thought that holding the NHL Winter Classic every season might amount to overkill, I can empathize with Sean's argument. But, after kicking things around in my head, I'm going to flip to the other side of the fence and write that a second game isn't a bad idea at all, and if executed properly, would be nothing but a big win for the league and all of its television partners. ↵

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↵Why the talk of a second game is happening isn't much of a surprise. The fact is, the folks in Canada know a good thing when they see it, and the fans north of the border and the people who run Canada's state-owned broadcast channel, the CBC, want a piece of the action. And, at some level, watching the NHL Winter Classic being played in an American city can't sit well with a certain segment of the Canadian public. In 2009, the Classic was played in one of America's most famous ballparks, with American fighter jets buzzing Wrigley Field at the conclusion of the Star Spangled Banner. Despite all of those American bells and whistles, hockey is still Canada's national sport, and watching a spectacle like that had to rankle the average Canadian hockey fan. ↵

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↵So while worries about dilution are understandable, we also should remember that it's always a good thing when new customers come clamoring for your product. So if the CBC or TSN wants to write a check that's big enough, the league ought to go out of its way to oblige them. The next question becomes, ‘how do you do that without alienating NBC Sports, your original customer?’ ↵

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↵Something tells me that won't be terribly hard. U.S. ratings are U.S. ratings, and if you held a second outdoor game that involved a pair of Canadian franchises, and if you held that game at the same time and blacked it out in the U.S., there wouldn't be any problem. And as for splintering attention, an American media outlet would not neglect to cover a compelling matchup between two American teams. Meanwhile, it's pretty clear that a hockey-mad Canada would be more than willing to consume a second outdoor hockey game on New Year's Day, especially if the event is designed to cater specifically to the Canadian hockey fan in much the same way the CBC has aired all-Canada tripleheaders on Hockey Night in Canada. ↵

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↵And if NBC Sports was concerned that ratings in border cities like Buffalo or Detroit would suffer because residents of those cities can pick up the feed from the CBC, there's a very easy solution: just stagger the start times so Game 2 from Calgary, or anywhere else for that matter, doesn't start until 90 minutes after the conclusion of the game in the American city. And if the idea of blacking out the second game from Canada offends you, then just make sure that the only way that it's available to the vast majority of American viewers is via the NHL Center Ice package. I can't imagine NBC Sports would have much of a problem with that. ↵

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↵Granted, this decision is out of the hands of the fans, and instead will be decided by the NHL's Competition Committee when it meets this upcoming Thursday in Montreal ahead of the 2009 Entry Draft. Here's hoping they don't just shoot down the idea, and that they give the Canadian fans exactly what they want. And here's hoping that the Competition Committee realizes that they can do it without harming the product that's already won over casual hockey fans on both sides of the border. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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