Finally, I have time to sit back and reflect on the historic week that the NHL produced coast to coast. The work that went into providing 3 games in 5 days on separate coasts for fans all over the world was of enormous proportion , and in my opinion, it was worth the work — and the lack of shut eye — for so many hardworking people that made this happen. Why? Due to the exposure the game of hockey experienced and it was well received.
I have a positive view on the Stadium Series and the energy it brought to the game especially as we lead into the Sochi 2014 Olympics. In my opinion, the timing was perfect to strategically place an intense week of historic hockey before the week of the Super Bowl and before the opening ceremonies at the Olympic Games.
How clever was it to have hockey in Yankee Stadium for 2 rival games during a time when NYC/NJ were preparing for The Super Bowl? Of course it was brilliant; NYC, NJ, Yankee Stadium, and MetLife Stadium were in full throttle preparing for droves of fans from all over, and the media coverage that had no boundaries. This meant one thing for the game of hockey, — captivate your current fans and pique the interest of potential new fans. More eyes on hockey; its great business.
The reactions were both positive and negative when the announcement introducing the stadium series was released. It has been interesting for me to listen to fans comment on a final product that most regarded as a “bad idea.” I appreciate both the negative and positive opinions, but I tend to think that the negative comments and reactions to the Stadium Series were made by those who really are not comprehending, or can’t accept change, or are just ignoring the bigger picture of what the NHL is trying to achieve to compete in the mass market of professional sports.
I wish we could see the future impact of what these games will bring to further growth of the NHL. I just have a gut feeling we will look back on this week and say what was once “maybe” a questionable idea turned out to be one of the critical pieces to the modern growth of the NHL.
I feel so much pride being a part of this historic journey — why wouldn’t I? I had some incredible personal experiences thanks to this great game.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that caught my eye.
It would be ignorant for me to not discuss the obvious first. The venues. Seriously, an ice surface is placed on the fields of Dodger and Yankee Stadium for a hockey game replicating pond hockey, in one word, Epic!
Yankee stadium is a building that brings chills as you walk through the corridors and also absorb the history in Monument Park. Some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game in MLB history called Yankee Stadium home. Current player Derek Jeter who in my opinion is one of the Yankees “all time greats” is thrilling NY fans today in this amazing venue.
Hockey is now mixed into the history of the MLB, and I would have never imagined in my playing days that games like these were going to be part of the future of the NHL. It’s amazing how times change.
The Honor and respect Henrik Lundqvists showed for great Yankee players with the creative artistry painted on his mask was just another reason that reminded me how classy this great goaltender is. It’s proof that his development as a superstar in this league has not interfered with his values, appreciation, love, and passion for all sports.
Dan Craig is another name behind the scenes that means so much to hockey. The Ice Guru, working tirelessly to provide the NHL with great ice. He made a miracle happen at Dodger Stadium — the ice was good so how did he pull this off? This man flew after the game in LA on the NHL Charter like most of us did to arrive in NYC to immediately tend to the ice at Yankee stadium. It was so cold in NYC and with those frigid temps, the ice was challenging. Martin Brodeur made reference to poor ice conditions. I felt the media focused too much on those comments trying to create some sort of story, instead of focusing on the comments about how Martin had a great time, sharing a huge smile talking about how he loved the experience. Instead, those things were just an afterthought. That’s media for you.
Interviewing Michael J. Fox, who is a huge hockey fan, was fantastic. He is such a great guy with huge enthusiasm. I always find it one of those perfect moments to chat hockey with a guy like Michael because he is passionate about life, and the challenges life can bring us. He works through his personal challenges without backing down and that mirrors what you need to do in professional sports. I admire him greatly as he dedicates himself to the fight towards finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease and respectfully shares his story and information.
The hockey fan spans the appreciation of all music from Kiss to CeeLo Green to The Jersey Boys. There is no prejudice here. Having the opportunity to meet these people is always a unique and interesting experience, and something I always embrace. I love to have a great time, and my love for all music is a passion I wear on my sleeve, because I always dream that in my other life, I am a “rockstar” or a member of one of the great disco bands of the 70’s.
The list of retired players that were present for these games is endless, showing their respect to what the league is trying to create and giving attention to so many fans that deserve to meet and see a former player they once cheered for, or in some cases heckled.
The game at Dodger Stadium needed some spark as the teams played a somewhat boring game. Unfortunately LA didn’t bring their A game and let the Ducks pull off the win. I felt disappointed that this happened, because nothing is better than a close game that goes end to end, challenging the players, goaltender, and coaching staff. Of course, being a fan, I want more and expect more. Being a former player, I understand that some games just don’t go your way and you have to go back the locker room, watch video, work harder in your next practices, and re-dedicate yourself for the next game. Oh…and depending on who your coach is, you will probably feel some sort of physical pain during the next day’s practice which could include a bag skate, and that is the worst.
The first game in Yankee stadium, Rangers/Devils, was the best game. I love to see many goals, and the Rangers set the outdoor game record with 7 goals and 10 goals combined between the two games. For me, that game was fun to watch, and I say that even though the Devils fans probably want to choke me out for saying that out loud.
The Rangers/Islanders are always a rivalry to watch especially when both teams play well. As the Islanders learned (unfortunately), Lundqvist led the charge the way we are used to seeing him perform. He played a competitive game, and that for me is how I love to see this great game played. I always expect a lot from Lundqvist, and why wouldn’t I, I think he is one of the best.
After a week like this I will continue to look towards how the game develops, how players approach the game, and continue to analyze situations for teams around the country; while continuing to learn and understand the importance of where the NHL leaves its footprints.
For me, I feel like the league is testing the waters, and taking some risks they are getting much needed positive results. Could this mean that the my use of the F-bomb, throwing water bottles and chirping, might be put on the shelf? And replaced with words of praise and compliment? I guess retirement has brought me into a phase of Personal growth.
We will see what happens next as we look toward a week where we send players to Russia in hopes to win the Olympic Gold. Now we celebrate new Super Bowl Champions in a city that the NHL could potentially expand to… What could this mean? –JR