Truly What The Game is All About

Sidney Crosby

Before the days of the NHL lockouts in 1994-1995 and 2004-2005, before the days of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, before the days of the million dollar salaries and state-of-the-art composite sticks, hockey was played on a pond in the freezing cold and snow.

Today, in front of 72,000 plus fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, N.Y. the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins took a page out of the roots of the game in the NHL’s Winter Classic.

Okay, so maybe the level of play wasn’t as good as it could’ve been had the game been played indoors, but the circumstances of today’s game lend truth to just how unique the game of hockey can be. 

Hockey in itself is one of the toughest games to play at a high level.  The NHL is already revered for being the fastest game on earth and maybe the toughest because, well, you can’t run out of bounds and, if you try to, you get a face full of glass after being shoved into it by an opponent who weighs upwards of 200 pounds and moving at a speed of 30-40 m.p.h.

Take that physical element and then take blowing snow that was accumulating on the ice at a rapid rate and the 72,000 plus fans that electrified that stadium, and you have one unique experience, and that is what hockey is about.

Buffalo Outdoor Game

The NHL could not have scripted this game any better.  The Penguins are an up-and-coming team led by the poster boy for the NHL in Crosby, while the Sabres are an exciting and offensively gifted team even with the departures of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency.  The two teams are also rivals in the Eastern Conference and came into today separated by just two points in the standings with Buffalo having the opportunity to jump from ninth place in the tightly contested East to sixth place with a win.

The Penguins managed to pull off the victory in a shoot-out as Crosby and Kristopher Letang scored for Pittsburgh and now sit three points ahead of Buffalo in the Eastern Conference standings.

All-in-all for the NHL, today was a great day for hockey.  From the reports coming in, the fans that packed Ralph Wilson Stadium and the tailgate parties that took place prior to the drop of the puck loved every second of it, and why not?

Hockey doesn’t get enough credit in the sporting world.  It is fast, it’s tough and you need a huge variety of skills to even have a shot at the NHL.

Today, watching a game that had two good teams not only playing against each other in an important game but braving the elements as well was a great way to kick off 2008 and a great way to celebrate, what many people -myself included- believe to be the greatest game in the world.

Hats off to the NHL and to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres for putting on a great game and showing the world what the game of hockey is all about.

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