Having been to a bunch of outdoor hockey games now, it’s hard for me not to compare them to see where Stadium Series Colorado falls.
Three big things jumped out at me right off the bat in Denver.
The first was that the ice surface looked fantastic under the lights and clear dark sky. We saw that for the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park, as well as the game there between the Griffins and Marlies, and way back at the Cold War in Spartan Stadium.
The overcast afternoons of the Wings’ previous Winter Classic appearances didn’t provide for the same contrast (though the 2014 Winter Classic was also hampered by being in the middle of a snowstorm).
Something that I touched on a lot via Twitter over the weekend was that both the alumni game and the Stadium Series game proper felt more like the Avalanche home game they were than the 2014 Winter Classic felt like a Red Wings home game. The in-game video was very Avs-centric and the PA announcer did (what appears to be) the typical Colorado cheerleading.
I traded Tweets with Red Wings’ PA announcer Erich Freiny, who said that the NHL instructed him to call the Winter Classic like a home game. Maybe it was the presence of so many Maple Leafs fans in Ann Arbor that made it feel less like a home game, or maybe the Detroit PA routines are just less obnoxious (you’ve never heard Freiny [or Budd Lynch before him] say “Woohooo!” after a Red Wings goal). Whatever the reason, the difference was undeniable.
Lastly, it’s hard not to touch on the weather. In 2009, the Red Wings played at Chicago in freezing conditions. In 2014, Ann Arbor was even colder and had feet of snow dropped on it. Denver was sunny and 70ish for the weekend. It felt more like playoff weather than mid-season.
Something I’d have loved to see different: The Avalanche in blue. After the Wings and Leafs did a color-on-color matchup in 2014, I think blue vs. red would have looked fantastic in Denver. Swap white and blue on the Avs’ Stadium Series jersey template and it works.
I have to mention the fake snowstorm. It didn’t impact play but it was hilarious to see. NHL employees scrambled to secure the cotton batting at field-level while fans tried to grab it out of the sky.