Monday, September 26, 2011

Winter Classic Official: Rangers-Flyers at Citizens Bank Park

The worst kept secret is official. Today at a live press conference covered on NHL Network, former Flyer and current Versus analyst Keith Jones announced the obvious to the hockey world. The Winter Classic has become a signature event for hockey. The fifth edition pits the New York Rangers versus old Patrick nemesis Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park on January 2 at 1 ET/10 PT. As usual, the game can be seen on NBC. But really, who won't be checking out the festivities in HD! That's the only way to watch this prestigous game.

It really is exciting for the Rangers to finally be part of it. Even as a road participant, it'll give our young core more exposure against one of its best division rivals in the City Of Brotherly Love. There also will be a Legends Game set for New Year's Eve two days before the teams take the ice in a unique setting where the Phillies play. The baseball home of the '08 World Champs becomes the the third ballpark to host the Winter Classic. Last year's took place at Heinz Field- home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here's a brief look at the history of the game:


'08 Pittsburgh Penguins 2 Buffalo Sabres 1 (Crosby shootout winner) at Ralph Wilson Stadium
'09 Detroit Red Wings 6 Chicago Blackhawks 4 at Wrigley Field
'10 Philadelphia Flyers 2 Boston Bruins 1 (OT-Marco Sturm) at Fenway Park
'11 Washington Capitals 3 Pittsburgh Penguins 1 at Heinz Field
'12 New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park

Most notably, the Sabres hosted the inaugural game on New Year's Day 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium where the Buffalo Bills play. In what can be described as the defining moment of the Classic, Sidney Crosby beat Ryan Miller in a shootout to win an exciting contest while mobbed by teammates as snow fell, creating a magical scene. Seeing our heroes play the game outdoors as many did growing up on ponds is what makes it so special. Enough credit can't be given to all the people behind the scenes who work so hard to give us such a wonderful game. Without their dedication, it'd never happen. Even commissioner Gary Bettman deserves some due for this marquee game made for network TV.

At today's conference call, the 26th Ranger captain Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards were present along with Glen Sather and John Tortorella. On the Flyer side, club owner/founder Ed Snider spoke eloquently about how much hockey's grown in Philadelphia since he started the Flyer franchise in 1967. One of the highlights was when he stated that he never envisioned he'd be standing up at a podium all these years later talking about an outdoor game on a ballfield. Flyer captain Chris Pronger and I believe Claude Giroux were on hand.

Also speaking was Mr. Bettman, who didn't get booed. Neither did Sather, who was in rare form, deadpanning, "I can't remember the last time I was at a pep rally in Philadelphia (smiling)," in regards to earlier commentary on the Phillies winning the World Series. "You actually gave me a nice round of applause, so I do appreciate all of you guys down here in the orange uniforms."

It wouldn't be Slats without a bit of cockiness as the former architect of five Oilers' Stanley Cups noted who they beat twice while basically making a guarantee along with some more eye popping commentary that was hilarious.

"We're proud to play in Philadelphia against the Flyers. They're a great hockey club. Mr. Snider has been one of the greatest owners I've had a chance to be associated with in all the years in hockey. I have nothing but respect for him and his hockey club. But we're going to come to Philadelphia and we are going to win. I knew I could get a rise out of you sooner or later. That's more like it (laughter).

It's a great event. I respect the fans in Philadelphia. I'm sorry that we kicked the hell out of you twice in the Stanley Cup. We're going to do the same thing on the 2nd. At the end of the year we will be carrying the Cup, just like the Yankees are going to have the World Championship, as well. "

Even if you despise Sather, you gotta admit he has balls. The humor certainly wasn't lost on Snider, who reminded him that those two Cups came in Edmonton. Not here. And so, the most entertaining exchange in entirety:

ED SNIDER: When he says, We kicked the hell out of you in two Stanley Cups, he wasn't talking the Rangers. I remember kicking the hell out of the Rangers on the way to our Cups.

GLEN SATHER: It's nice to see you haven't lost your edge.

KEITH JONES: We told you it was a rivalry. You can see what happens (laughter).

About the only thing missing was a peptalk from Mickey and the theme from Rocky. If the game's anything like the press conference, we're all in for a treat. Regardless of the outcome, it's tremendous for the sport.

Once again, HBO will run 24/7 with the first episode debuting on Dec.14 at 10 ET with a special encore presentation at 11 ET. Road to the Winter Classic airs on three consecutive Wednesdays starting with 12/21, 12/28 and 1/4 wrapping things up. It will also air at 10 and 11 ET. Considering that our coach Tortorella doesn't mince words, it should be quite interesting to see if he becomes the star as Washington coach Bruce Boudreau did last year with his team struggling. Hopefully, the Rangers will be playing well heading into it. I'm also curious to see Laviolette and Pronger just to get a better gauge on the Flyers following their overhaul.

I definitely can't wait for the season to start. Especially after watching NHL Net's coverage. Preseason is fun just for fans to see players they're unfamiliar with who are looking to make an impression. I loved how Tortorella afterwards told Kevin Weekes that he was looking forward to tonight's exhibition against the Flyers and wanting to win it. It just gives you even more perspective into the fire that burns inside our coach.

Rangers face Jagr, Flyers before Europe: Tonight is the final tuneup before the Rangers fly to Europe. Ailing defenseman Marc Staal will not make the initial trip but did practice. It's hard to see the organization taking any risks with our top defenseman, who still has his best years ahead of him. Considering all the heavy travel due to Part I of the World's Most Renovated Arena, I see them playing it safe which means we might not see Staal until the October 27 home opener at the earliest. Much depends on how he progresses. Head injuries are so unpredictable. Sidney Crosby hinted that he's closer to returning to full contact. A great sign for everyone. Hopefully, Staal won't be out long.

The Rangers and Flyers both will ice lineups close to what we'll see when '11-12 kicks off. Jaromir Jagr will play against his former teammates for the first time since he left for the KHL. Catch all the action on MSG at 7 ET.


Hasan said...

Wait, THIS was the NHL's 'major announcement'?! Rangers-Flyers has been out there for weeks as this year's WC. The only thing I wasn't sure of was where they were playing.

Derek Felix said...

lmao of course...i figured it out the night before and kinda had fun with it. hey, the way the two teams went at it after Slats/Snider barbs, you'd have thought it was for a playoff spot.

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