As the hockey world gets prepared for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, the staff at USA Hockey must be commended. The American roster is set to be announced at the Winter Classic in Boston, amidst the historic confines of Fenway Park. What was normally nothing more than a press release type event now acts as an avenue for USA Hockey to bring more exposure to the game.
While the Winter Classic draws high ratings in both Canada and the US, the game appears very much as an American event. Much like Canada and the CBC have Hockey Day in Canada, the US and NBC could have the Winter Classic. Using the setting of baseball stadiums representative of America‘s national pastime is a great way to help bring attention to the upcoming Olympic Games.
There are many different approaches that USA Hockey can take in making the roster announcement. Imagine a situation where the Bruins Tim Thomas is named as one of the goaltenders and skates out to center ice while shaking the hands of representatives from America’s management team. A massive applause will surely reign down from the 30,000 or so Bruins fans at Fenway Park in Boston as they embrace the selection of Thomas. The cheers would then turn into boos as former Bruin and current Maple Leaf Phil Kessel is named to the team.
A great way to build upon the spectacle of the event would be to bring back some of those from the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. Massachusetts natives from the team like Jim Craig and Jack O’ Callahan could all help contribute to the naming of the roster. Furthermore, if a captain of the US team is to be named at the Winter Classic, who better to announce that player then former captain of the Miracle on Ice team, Mike Eruzione. These are just some thoughts, but either way, making some type of connection to the 1980 Gold Medal Olympic team would surely be a step in the right direction.
If the Olympic announcement is a success in Boston, perhaps the Winter Classic could be the continued stage for the unveiling of the US Olympic team.
That said however, the next Olympics are four years away and the NHL has yet to commit to the event. More so, who knows what the future of the Winter Classic will be in 2014. With the previous two games, the NHL has benefitted from having a light snowfall in Buffalo in 2008 and a legendary original six battle with Chicago and Detroit at Wrigley Field in 2009.
As imitation is often the best form of flattery, maybe other countries should jump on board with the decision made by USA Hockey. If the NHL and Russian Federation improve upon their current relationship, what about an outdoor regular season game at Red Square in Moscow in 2014? The game could be used to announce the Russian team in the same year that Russia hosts the Olympics. Although the NHL has remained non committal about the 2014 Games in Russia, Alexander Ovechkin has publicly expressed his desire in NHL players once again playing.
As the NHL continues to take regular season games overseas, the idea of announcing a Russian team or a Swedish team at an outdoor rink in Europe would be a great way to further promote the NHL. Maybe all these ideas are wishful thinking, but the NHL has a real gem with the Winter Classic. Be it in America, Canada, or somewhere in Europe, the NHL should continue to use the annual game as an avenue to promote other issues relevant to the game of hockey.
As long as the weather allows the Winter Classic in Boston to take place, USA Hockey should have a winner with the 2010 announcement of the Olympic team. There is nothing wrong with celebrating your history, and just as Canada has the 1972 Summit Series, America has the Miracle on Ice.
USA Hockey should once again celebrate their past by including the alumni from the 1980 Olympic team as part of the festivities during the upcoming Winter Classic. Seeing the faces of Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig and others would lead to further anticipation for the Olympics as the Boston faithful wait for the next generation of USA hockey players to be announced.