SLAP SHOT

Avalanche get snubbed for NHL’s biggest stage again

Feb 6, 2024, 1:48 PM | Updated: 9:39 pm

One Chicago Blackhawks beat writer joked that the team won’t have a historic jersey to inspire their 2025 Winter Classic sweater, that’s how many times that franchise has featured in outdoor contests.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Tuesday that the Windy City hockey team will host the St. Louis Blues at Wrigley Field for a second Winter Classic at the Friendly Confines. The game, which has long been the biggest showing of the NHL’s regular season is the annual New Year’s Day matchup outdoors.  It’ll be Chicago’s seventh outdoor game and fourth time hosting—and yes there are several teams now, who have gotten multiple hosting opportunities and at the same venue.

The Colorado Avalanche have only played in three of these games, which have become common over the last 15 years. They hosted a Stadium Series games at Air Force in 2020 and Coors Field before that and played another outdoor game on the beach of Lake Tahoe during the height COVID-19 pandemic.

But these games have started to lose their cache a bit, maybe due to college football completely taking over the sports day the Classic is played or the gimmick of outdoor hockey has gotten old. This past season Seattle hosted Vegas in a retractable roof stadium and it was the lowest rating the Classic has gotten. In fact, it’s not even the highest-rated game of the NHL’s regular season in 2023-24, that would be Connor Bedard’s pro debut in Pittsburgh.

So maybe that explains why the NHL has picked a bad Blackhawks team to face a downward-pointing Blues one—the ratings say people are interested in the rookie All-Star.

That passes over the recent champion Avs, who are full of stars—led by Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar. Seemingly, there was a good venue for the game, or at least many Avs fans wanted it at, Folsom Field in Boulder.

NHL playoff games average about the same number of viewers as the Classic so Colorado should have multiple games with more eyes on them this spring than Chicago and St. Louis get next winter. Still, the Avs had to earn those games, whereas the NHL is going out of its way to feature two of Colorado’s lesser-performing division rivals in the Winter Classic.

Nobody in Colorado is upset that the Avalanche didn’t get the Winter Classic per say, everyone should get a chance to host it or at the very least play in it. It’s just upsetting for many in Colorado to see Chicago host the game yet again with questionable bonafides and a recent history of already playing in so many outdoor games, while the Avs are a top team and haven’t even played in a Winter Classic.

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