Tuesday, October 6, 2009
It all started on this date in 2001 when the Michigan State Spartans hosted their rivals the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium in front of a world record crowd of 74,544 in a game dubbed "The Cold War".
The success of the event started a wave of outdoor hockey games in both the college and professional ranks. In November 2003 the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL's first outdoor game, The Heritage Classic. Both teams wore vintage throwback jerseys, starting a trend which continues with the annual Winter Classic.
The Heritage Classic was held to commemorate the Oilers 25th Anniversary of joining the NHL and the 20th Anniversary of their first Stanley Cup championship. The weekend of events also featured the MegaStars Game, an alumni game which featured past Oilers stars versus Canadiens greats which saw Wayne Gretzky and Guy Lafleur compete. Mark Messier even received permission from the New York Rangers to play in the MegaStars game, the only currently active player to compete in the contest. The Heritage Classic set an NHL record with 57,167 in attendance and the lasting image of the contest is Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore wearing a toque over the top of his goalie mask with his breath clearly visible in the 0ºF temperatures and -22º F wind chill.
The "Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic" came next for the college ranks on February 11, 2006 in a game that saw Wisconsin defeat Ohio State 4-2 in front of 40,890 at the home of the Green Bay Packers football team, Lambeau Field, in temperatures around 28º F.
Following the overwhelming interest in these contests, the NHL staged their first annual Winter Classic, held on New Year's Day in 2008 in a game that saw the Buffalo Sabres host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills football club. A new NHL record crowd of 71,217 saw Sidney Crosby win the game for Pittsburgh with the deciding goal in a shootout. The Penguins would wear baby blue throwbacks from 1968 while the Sabres would don jerseys based on their original 1970 jerseys.
The second annual Winter Classic in 2009 saw the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings at historic Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball club. Detroit would win the game by a score of 6-4 in front of 40,818. The Red Wings would go all the way back to the 1926 Detroit Cougars for the inspiration for their jerseys, worn during the first season of the franchise, while the Blackhawks would select the highly attractive jerseys worn in 1935 as their inspiration.
This season's Winter Classic is to be held at the Boston Red Sox Fenway Park with the Boston Bruins hosting the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers jerseys are inspired by their original 1967 jerseys, while the Bruins are wearing a sweater which combines different elements from their past, including their original brown and gold colors worn from 1924-1934, the original style "spoked B" logo first worn in 1949 and a lace up collar which first appeared on a Bruins jersey in 1967. Overall, the package most closely resembles a 1957 Bruins jersey.
The opening game of the 2010 IIHF World Championships between the host team Germany and the United States is scheduled to be played outdoors at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen on May 7th and would host as many as 76,00 fans. The soccer stadium has a teflon-coated fiberglass canvas retractable roof. The publicity from this event will hopefully make many more fans in North America aware of the annual World Championships, which are traditionally overlooked due to their taking place while the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing.
Today's featured jersey is a Nike 2001-02 Michigan Wolverines Michael Woodford jersey, the style the Wolverines wore during the first significant outdoor hockey game in the modern era, "The Cold War".
This particular game worn jersey features the 2002 Frozen Four patch, as the Wolverines made it to St. Paul, Minnesota as one of the last four teams competing for the championship.
Here is a highlights package from the original outdoor hockey game between host Michigan State and Michigan, known as "The Cold War".
Next up is the first NHL outdoor game, the Heritage Classic between the Oilers and Canadiens.
Here is some madness from the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic as the Badger players take a "Lambeau Leap" into the stands after defeating Ohio State.
Next up is the shootout from the first Winter Classic in 2008 between the Sabres and Penguins.
Finally, highlights from the last Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago.