The NHL has long believed that Christmas Day shall be a day of rest for the league and all those involved. There is actually a stipulation in the Collective Bargaining Agreement stating this very fact. My concern with this is it may not be in the league's best interests.
Once again the NHL enjoyed the spoils of the Winter Classic. For rabid fans, it takes the game back to its roots - and that very same emotion comes through when listening to the players involved. For the casual fan, it offers novelty. An argument can be made that only the Olympic tournament captures the interest of the casual fan more than the Winter Classic. However, a tournament rooted in national pride is likely to do as much. With all that said, this year's Classic saw a downturn in ratings. The NHL will argue that although there was a dip, the ratings far eclipse any other regular season game aired to a national audience. Well, why not improve on that?
The ratings dip was likely due in large part to what the game went up against on the other networks. Sports hungry fans were likely more concerned about some meaningless bowl game, and I guarantee you that Vegas was as well. The NHL has not, and may never eclipse the influence that the NCAA bowl games have on early January. And if the NCAA ever screws its head on and utilizes a tournament, the NHL can forget about outdrawing a significant college football game in January.
This leads to a logical decision - move the Winter Classic to Christmas Day. Before you start screaming, "but,but,but...the NBA!??who cares?" The NBA is in trouble, and it is time to kick them while they are down. Whether or not Gary Bettman has the stones to do that to his mentor, David Stern, is another question. There is no novelty in the NBA Christmas Day schedule, aside from a decent match-up. What visual seems more festive; sweaty gents in shorts and sleeveless shirts playing indoors, or bundled up fellows playing amidst falling snow?
For once, follow the NFL's lead. This year there was exactly one NFL game played on the Sunday that Christmas fell on -and it was in prime time. Every other game was played the Saturday prior, or the Monday following. The NHL had the audacity to schedule four other games on the day of the Winter Classic. ome showcase. If the game were to coincide with the NFL schedule, run it during the day and let the NFL claim the prime time spot. By showcasing just two teams in a historic venue on a day when most people are loafing about their houses, struggling through a Christmas Day Star Wars marathon, you may bring higher ratings for both the Winter Classic and future broadcasts as well.
I'm sure many will say that the day is meant to be spent with family and that a move to Christmas Day is unfair to the players on any team scheduled to play on Christmas. Really? If this is the biggest argument against such a move, that a millionaire would have to work on Christmas - maybe next Christmas you should volunteer to take Eddie the gas station attendant's shift down at your local Citgo station. I think the player's can manage.
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