The NHL's Winter Classic is must-see TV for hockey fans, who get the unique opportunity to see two teams take the ice outdoors. This relatively new tradition (the first game was in 2008) is a great way to ring in the new year—and here are some facts to get you excited.
1. The first Winter Classic nearly took place in 2004.
Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC and NBCSN, pitched the idea of playing a game at Yankee Stadium between the Rangers and Bruins only a few months after the Red Sox rallied to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. The network had a void to fill as college football was no longer in its plans. Alas, there was resistance from the league, and it didn't come to fruition until 2008.
2. There has been just one penalty shot in the history of the Winter Classic.
In 2012, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Daniel Briere was denied by New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with 19.6 seconds remaining in the third period and the Flyers down 3-2. After just 42 penalty shots last season, the NHL has seen 22 penalty attempts through a little more than a quarter of this season. With more penalty shots being awarded, maybe we get one at Gillette Stadium on New Year’s Day.
3. Only one Winter Classic wasn’t played on New Year’s Day.
The 2012 Winter Classic featuring the Flyers and Rangers was played on January 2, as January 1 was a Sunday and NBC was worried about its primetime NFL game—if a weather delay had pushed the afternoon start to a night start, NBC would have had a scheduling conflict. The game wound up being delayed two hours until about 3:20 ET due to high temperatures and sun glare.
4. The Montreal Canadiens will become the first team to play outdoor games in both Canada and the United States.
They appeared in the NHL’s first outdoor game, the 2003 Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, and the 2011 Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. (The Heritage Classic is a series of outdoor games played between Canadian teams.) When the Canadiens take the ice at Gillette Stadium, they also will become the first team to play three road outdoor games, all at football stadiums.
5. For the 2016 Winter Classic, the Canadiens and Bruins will meet for the 908th time, playoffs included.
They first squared off on Dec. 8, 1924. The Bruins entered the second intermission with a 3-2 lead but lost 4-3 as Montreal’s Aurel Joliat scored twice in the third period to win it for the Canadiens. Twelve years later, Joliat scored career goal number 250 against the Bruins, which made him just the third player in NHL history to reach that number. Joliat later became a referee and in 1942 officiated the first game of Maurice Richard, who would dethrone Joliat as Montreal’s all-time leading scorer during the 1950-51 season.
6. If and when the Bruins score, Gillette Stadium will sound the usual foghorn that signals home goals at TD Garden.
It won’t require any adjustment from the sound crew at the stadium, however, as the Patriots have used the same horn at their games to signal third downs. Thirty-nine Bruins fans would like the Patriots to stop using it and have even set up a Facebook group protesting the “travesty” that “cannot stand.”
7. One player in this year's game has scored a goal in an outdoor contest.
The Bruins' Matt Beleskey scored as a member of the Anaheim Ducks in a 3-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium in January 2014.
8. This will mark the fourth Winter Classic to take place at a football stadium.
And at all three contests, the visitors were victorious. It’s not all bad news for the Bruins—they won the Winter Classic as a home team in 2010 at the Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park.
9. Tickets Are Super Expensive.
According to Forbes, the average cost of a ticket at last year's winter classic was about $500, the highest rate in five years (the cheapest ticket listed at $268). As of December 3, the cheapest ticket on StubHub for the 2015 Winter Classic is $215, with club seats going for as much as $2800. Gillette Stadium holds about 25,000 more people that Washington, DC's Nationals Park (where it was held in 2015), so the NHL is poised to make much more money.
All images courtesy of Getty Images