Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Snow, shovels, Sidney and showtime!

The star of the show was as it should be the up and rising phenom of the NHL Sidney Crosby, however a close second had to be the ice rescue crew that frequently made pilgrimages to the ice surface of Ralph Wilson Stadium, seeking to keep the surface safe for play and at least manageable to get the outdoor spectacle complete.

The Sabres and Penguins seemed to be enjoying themselves as the snow would fall, first in light flakes then in heavier flakes occasionally as sleet, pond hockey it was as though they had cleared a space out on Lake Erie for the occasion.

The game itself resembled many of the backyard games or community rink games of the players youth, there were occasional setbacks as the puck would get slowed by an impromptu snowbank or a patch of ice that wasn't particularly helping the cause, but like the outdoor games of days gone by you just kept pushing forward, always moving the puck as lethargic as it might seem at times.

The scoring seemed to be best done as the game began, while the players still had their jump and the ice wasn't too chopped up. And as if by strategy, Sidney Crosby who by day's end would be the storybook hero of the day almost got the day underway with a goal. Crosby was taking the puck into the Buffalo end of the rink when a shot towards the net went wide, a few seconds later it would appear on the stick of Colby Armstrong who who score the first goal of the game less than a minute into outdoor festival.

The Sabres not to be denied at their own party would return the favour in the second period, a portion of the game which they dominated out shooting the Pens 18-2, with Brian Campbell tying the game putting a goal behind Ty Conklin in the Penguins net.

The third period slowed down significantly, the ice crew more and more frequent visitors to the surface and a blast of wind and snow making things a tad more difficult that in the first two periods. Not surprisingly there were no goals scored in the final twenty minutes or the overtime, leading to a magical shoot out with snow swirling and Sidney set to put the cap on the day's entertainment.

While the 72,000 or so in attendance probably weren't happy with the score they certainly seemed to have enjoyed the spectacle, the largest crowd to see an NHL regular season game stayed for the most part right to that final Crosby shot. Making Buffalo for the day the living breathing example of what a hockey town is all about.

As they roared their way through the shootout, the time came for the most marketed face of the NHL to line up at centre ice and take his shot, a deke here and shovel through a hole there and it was all over, the Penguins winning the game, the Sabres winning the title of best fans in the NHL in frozen football stadium in January.

The big winner on the day however, the NHL. Which besides attracting over 70,000 fans to a hockey game gained some amazing visual attention on NBC, which gave the game the full NBC deal. Bob Costas as the host, back stories of days gone by (including an entertaining if slightly dated showcase of the old Slapshot movie) and of course featuring everything Sidney.

Likewise, the CBC pulled out its A list of talent for an afternoon trip to perhaps the closest thing to a Canadian city in the USA. Not to be out featured by their American counterparts, the CBC made sure that there was enough material to cover the frequent stoppages in play and enough heart tugging moments to fill up any CRTC mandates for years to come.

But most importantly, on a New Years Day in Buffalo, the rising star of the league delivered as expected, timing as they say is everything and Crosby, like a few of the more famous names of the past knew exactly when to make his mark.

Mr. Bettman should have the thank you card in the mail tomorrow morning!

Globe and Mail--Crosby steals the show
Globe and Mail--An outdoor party
Globe and Mail--Conklin ends long wait
Sports Illustrated--The Great Outdoors
Pittsburgh Tribune Review--Pens win winter classic in a shootout

No comments: