I think it’s swell the NHL seems set to have an outdoor game between the Penguins and the Sabres January 1 – if NBC thinks showing it that day will make it seem like an event and bring in casual viewers, who am I to argue? Neither hockey fans nor the NHL itself can afford to quibble about the game being on US network TV in any shape or form.
It’s also kind of cool those are the teams, rather than a major market match-up like, say, Rangers at Red Wings (even if that wouldn’t be an actual outdoor game). Of course, the Crosby factor (see above) and the potential to sell 20,000 tickets to the people of Ontario make it an attractive package.
But I sure hope they move it from its current scheduled 1pm start, which would put it opposite four of the day’s six bowl games. I know it’s really, really cold in Buffalo, and January 1 is deeper into winter than the last two outdoor contests (Michigan/Michigan State, October, 2001; Edmonton/Montreal, November, 2003), but I gotta think more fans would be available to watch at 4 or 5pm, when the only competition is the Rose Bowl.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much a guarantee that even if the league achieves its goal (as stated by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi) of bringing in “the largest audience ever to watch an NHL game in the United States” that will quickly be spun into “the largest audience ever to watch an NHL game is still smaller than the audience for 9-3 Wisconsin vs. 8-4 Tennessee” (to say nothing of the Gator Bowl).