Monday, December 21, 2015

Hockey Solstice

While today might be the shortest day of the year, it ushers in some of the longest days of hockey viewing over the next two months.

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The hockey kicks off on December 26th in Finland with the start of the 2015 World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland, where ten countries face off in the annual holiday season tournament which runs through January 5th's Gold Medal Final.

2016 WJC logo photo 2016_WJC_logo.jpg

The teams are divided into two groups, with Group A stacked with the defending gold medal champions Canada, Sweden and the United States as well as Denmark and Switzerland, with the key matchups looking to be the opening day heavyweight bout between Canada and the United States on December 26th and Canada vs. Sweden on New Year's Eve. Also of note will be Sweden vs. the USA on December 28th.

Canada 2015 WJC Gold Medal photo Canada 2015 WJC Gold Medal.jpg
Canada will be looking to win it's second consecutive gold medal

Group B looks no easier with the hosts Finland having to face Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Belarus. Key games in the group are Russia opening the tournament right off the bat with the Czech Republic on December 26th and host Finland vs. Russia on Dec. 28th.

Viewers in the United States can watch 17 games on the NHL Network, including all the Group A games, covering all the United States and Canada preliminary round games, as well as all 8 playoff round contests.

In Canada, coverage has already begun on TSN with the airing of all three of Canada's exhibition games and will continue with 20 Preliminary Round games as well as all 8 of the Playoff Round games.

When the World Juniors takes a break on New Year's Day prior to the start of the Quarterfinals, the NHL steps into the void with the sixth Winter Classic, this year featuring the Boston Bruins (making their second Winter Classic appearance) taking on Original 6 rivals the Montreal Canadiens, just the second Canadian team to play in the Winter Classic. The game will be held at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, home of the New England Patriots of the National Football League.

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The festivities for the Winter Classic begin on December 31st with the team practices and the highly anticipated alumni game between veteran Bruins and Canadiens, which should be a virtual Hockey Hall of Fame on ice.

Once the Winter Classic concludes, things return to normal in the NHL until the NHL Stadium series begins with the February 21st game between the host Minnesota Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. That game will be followed six days later by the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings playing at Coors Field in Denver on February 27th.

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Decisions must be made by collectors, as each of the three NHL outdoor games will feature special one-off jerseys, with the ones worn by Boston and Montreal in the Winter Classic being by far the finest of the lot, as Boston drew inspiration from their inaugural season of 1924-25 and Montreal from the same 1924-25 season, the year they celebrated their status as world champion Stanley Cup holders by wearing a globe on the front of their jerseys, which will appear on their sleeves for the Winter Classic.

2016 Winter Classic Jerseys photo 2016 Winter Classic Jerseys.jpg

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