Flyers Host Rangers Outdoors in NHL's 2012 Winter Classic

Joe LaTengo | Updated Jan 01, 2012

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Despite an infamous incident during the last edition, there are many reasons to like the NHL Winter Classic. Joe LaTengo laces up his skates to preview the 2012 version.

The Hit. It’s all anyone really remembers about the 2011 Winter Classic, where former Washington Capitals forward David Steckel delivered a shivering check to the head of Sidney Crosby. The Capitals did end up defeating Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 that day at Heinz Field, but that’s a mere footnote.

The reverberations of The Hit are still being felt today: after returning from 10 months of recovery, Crosby is out again indefinitely because of subsequent collisions. In the meantime, the league has toughened its rules amid concern over the rising head count and speculation about whether hockey’s great new ambassador can ever fully recover.

It’s a shame that this high-profile event now has such a negative act associated with it. The Winter Classic, and the Heritage Classic in Canada, is supposed to evoke a simpler time when recreational players laced up their skates inside rickety wooden shacks with (or without) pot-bellied stoves, and the participants wore toques instead of helmets. Instead of sitting in stale arenas, everyone is out in the open air amid the steam from bodies, breath and hot coffee.

The 2012 version has the New York Rangers facing off against the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park, usually the home of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies. Warm weather in the area has threatened the event, and the alumni game held last Saturday had to be moved to a later time because of the unseasonable temperature.

That alumni match had some special moments: 66-year-old Flyers legend Bernie Parent played his last league game in 1979, but showed he still has the magic touch in goal. He faced six shots and made a sprawling save on one of them, which earned No. 1 a rousing ovation for his five-minute stint in net. This was also the first time hockey fans got to see No. 88 Eric Lindros back on the ice, his own career having been cut short by mutiple concussions. More than 45,000 fans attended, and it’s expected the actual tilt on Monday will draw similar interest.

Regardless of its novelty aspects, the Winter Classic game result counts in the standings. Check the NHL betting on this match to see what’s been posted; given that they’re two points apart in the Eastern Conference and they’re the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, this should be a close contest. It’s scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Eastern time (10 a.m. Pacific), with TV coverage on NBC, CBC and RDS (French). Here’s hoping that it all goes well, without any more catastrophic incidents.

UPDATE: On Sunday night, the NHL moved the start time of the Winter Classic two hours later on Monday, to 3 p.m. Eastern (noon Pacific) for “optimal conditions.”

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