The Wild and the Twins, as Target Field hosts, are attempting to sell Minnesotans on the idea the NHL has done us a large favor by scheduling its Winter Classic here for Jan. 1, 2021.
Minnesotans and the manner in which they embrace both hockey and hyped events might be the NHL’s only hope for a Winter Classic revival, which has fallen off a cliff in general interest in recent years.
The Winter Classic reached its lowest-ever television exposure Wednesday, when Nashville and Dallas in the Cotton Bowl stadium drew an average audience of 1.97 million viewers (including streaming).
That was a million fewer than the average on New Year’s Day 2019, when playing in Notre Dame Stadium gave the Bruins-Blackhawks telecast a bump and ended a four-New Year’s losing streak in TV numbers.
One subtraction in the audience: Minnesotans. They were watching a Gophers football game vs. Auburn in Tampa.
The true tumble started much earlier, when the NHL decided it was better off with a money grab — adding “Stadium Series” outdoor games — than maintaining the Winter Classic’s No. 1 appeal: uniqueness.
An occasional “Heritage Classic” game in Canada, OK, but by the winter of 2013, you risked seeing highlights from an outdoor game any time you clicked on NHL Network:
Winter Classic, three Stadium Series games in the U.S. and an outdoor game in Canada.
Gary Bettman’s NHL finds a good thing and beats it to death.
TCF Bank Stadium hosted a Wild-Blackhawks game in the 2016 Stadium Series. NHL: “Hey, Minnesotans, you aren’t good enough for a Winter Classic, but please give us a financial bonanza with a sellout.”
Which you did.
Now, the NHL finally is sending it here, when the Winter Classic needs Minnesotans more than we need it.
Good news for the NHL: Assuming Phil Fleck’s Gophers are playing in the Rose Bowl (CFP semifinals) next Jan. 1, it’s a game that kicks off later in the day.
• Don Larsen, World Series perfect game in 1956, died Wednesday at 90. Larsen married Corrine Bruess in her hometown of Benson, Minn., in December 1957 and they were married for 62 years.
• Larry McKenzie, Minneapolis North boys’ basketball coach, said Tracy Claeys was “always’’ at Tyler Johnson’s games before and after the receiver signed with the Gophers in February 2016.
• Claeys (now an assistant at Virginia Tech): “I saw as many of his basketball games as the NCAA permitted. Now I’m excited to know I’ll be watching him play football on Sunday.”
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