The notion of Boston University taking on Boston College before (or after) the NHL's Fenway Park Winter Classic, as Metro reported yesterday, is a doubleheader even the overkill crowd could stomach. Two Classics in two cities on the same day is stretching the gimmick's relevance to the breaking point; an "outdoor hockey festival" in a single city is a wonderful idea.
The other part of that Metro report is that the Philadelphia Flyers are now the frontrunners to face the Boston Bruins in the Fenway Classic. (Frontrunners in Boston; go figure.) Please recall yesterday's news that GM George McPhee of the Washington Capitals, whose team has been considered the other Classic candidate, was doubtful about his franchise's participation on New Year's Day 2010.
Joe Haggerty of WEEI confirmed with an NHL source that the Flyers are now the favorites for the Classic, and adds some interesting analysis for why the Capitals aren't:
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Several reports had named Washington as the leader in the clubhouse to take on the B's on New Year's Day, but multiple sources revealed to WEEI.com that there are concerns from NBC over television ratings with the Capitals - who are being pushed by the NHL to be the choice. NBC is instead campaigning for Philadelphia, according to one source, and the odds are improving by the day that the Flyers will be traveling to the Fens in January.
The lackluster playoff ratings for NBC during an opening round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup between Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals vs. the New York Rangers - the hockey team from the nation's #1 TV market - is believed to at least be partly behind the network's motives.
Hags goes on to quote several ratings figures to back up the claim. We'll defer to the Peacock here, but it does seem rather odd that hockey's biggest name vs. The Green Monster can't draw casual eyes on Jan. 1, 2010.
Hey, we're fine with the Flyers against the Bruins at Fenway, especially paired with BC and BU; if nothing else, there's at least the possibility of a lovely cascade of snow gently falling onto to the flying meat-hooks of Shawn Thornton and Daniel Carcillo during a Winter Classic brawl at center ice.
Plus, if the Flyers get this gig, that opens up another potential Classic down the line. One that we hadn't considered until recently: Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in an outdoor game. That's how you get Ovechkin in a Classic and get your ratings, NBC.
If the Flyers play at Fenway, make Caps/Pens the Penn State game the NHL's been circling for ages. And have the AHL's Hershey Bears vs. the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins as your doubleheader game. Done and done.