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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Greatest Game in Hockey

Wild on Sports
The Greatest Game in Hockey
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

Hockey is a game of some of the greatest traditions in sports. From the Stanley Cup to playoff beards and the traditional post playoff hand shake, there is a lot that has been etched in stone from the beginning as the way of life in the National Hockey League. While much newer than its fellow traditional counter parts, perhaps the greatest "new" tradition in hockey -- all of sports for that matter, takes place this afternoon, this year in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

There are few things Gary Bettman deserves credit for. After all, under his watch the NHL has experienced three lockouts, one of which lost an entire season and the other two losing thousands of fans. The one thing that I can without a doubt tip my cap to him for however is the NHL Winter Classic.

The Winter Classic is a thing of beauty. It is hockey at its purest of form. Anyone who grew up in the Northern United States or Canada has probably laced up the skates for a little pond hockey.  From Maine to North Dakota and Vancouver to St. John's there are kids all across North America that are probably tying their skates as we speak for a little shinny with some friends. You don't have to be Wayne Gretzsky or Sidney Crosby, all you need is a stick and a pair of skates. Its hockey in its greatest form; cold crisp air in your lungs, the glistening of the sun off the ice surface, maybe a snowflake falling here and there and that unmistakable sound of your blades carving up the ice.

It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.

For one day every year two lucky NHL teams get to turn back the clock to those fond childhood memories and step back onto the ice in all the elements. This year's edition of the Winter Classic will feature two original six teams in the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Fittingly, for two of the league's most storied franchises the game will be played in the venue known to millions as "the Big House" home to Michigan football and holding some 100,000+ people when at max capacity.

The game will be the highest attended game in NHL history. A tribute to two of the greatest franchises in the game and to two truly fantastic fan bases. Just a short drive from the Canadian border, there figure to be as many, if not more Leafs fans as Red Wing fans which should make for just an incredible environment. To top it all off, the forecast: 19 degrees with light snow. Does it get any better than that?

Hockey in its greatest form will be on full display. Even if you are not a hockey fan and just a general fan of sport, this one day a year is the can't miss hockey experience that no sports fan should ever miss.

So on this New Years day, round up the family, warm some hot chocolate and sit back and enjoy on of the great traditions in sports. You can thank me later...


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