NHL Winter Classic: More than just the game


Credit: Chloe Zilembo

WSPN’s Chloe Zilembo shares her experience at the NHL Winter Classic Fan Fest and the history behind it.

Chloe Zilembo

The first recorded indoor hockey game took place on March 3, 1875 in Montreal, Quebec, almost 150 years ago. Before that game, people had been playing hockey for years on frozen ponds. The history of outdoor hockey is rich, and the NHL came up with an idea to honor that history. In a bold move to celebrate the heritage of ice hockey’s roots as an outdoor game, the first Winter Classic game was held in 2008 at what is now known as Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

The Winter Classic is an outdoor hockey game that is influenced by the historical roots of the NHL. This year, the game was at Fenway Park in Boston, MA, and much of the inspiration behind the marketing was from old school baseball and Fenway Park.

Thousands of hockey fans congregated at City Hall Plaza in Boston, Massachusetts. On Dec. 30 and 31 the National Hockey League hosted a fan festival to promote the 14th annual Winter Classic.

At the Fan Fest there were multiple activities related to hockey. You could meet past and present players from both the Boston Bruins and its opponent for the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Credit: Chloe Zilembo

Current Bruins players at the event were third line forwards Trent Frederic and MA native, Charlie Coyle. You could also meet Bruins alumni like former goaltender Tuukka Rask, forwards Rick Middleton, Adam Oates, Terry O’Reilly and Shawn Thornton, as well as star defenseman Ray Bourque. Also at the event was Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Lines wrapped around City Hall Plaza while people waited to meet their favorite players. One fan yelled out, “Where is Raymond Bourque?” Line waits lasted for hours and devoted fans patiently stayed in them.

The three hour lines were not just for meeting players. People could also take pictures with the Stanley Cup, the trophy that the NHL Champions win. It is the oldest trophy in all of North American professional sports dating back to the 1892-1893 hockey season. This was before the NHL existed, so originally it was a trophy to reward the champion hockey team in Canada. The historical lore around the trophy makes it a very popular sight for sports fans.

For people wanting to commemorate the moment, there was a merchandise stand. Fans could buy numerous clothing items from sweatshirts, jerseys and shirts, to baseball hats and beanies. Although most of the merchandise was directed toward Bruins fans, any Penguins supporters at the event also had a small selection of items to choose from.

Credit: Chloe Zilembo

Other activities included hockey themed games such as giant air hockey, cornhole for free winter classic gear, making custom hockey cards, taking pictures with NHL signs and behind the bench of a pop up ice rink board, numerous shooting games and a bar where you could have a drink with some of the Bruins alumni.

Nearing the end of the night after all the waiting, shopping and games, fans could wind down with a drink and some food. There were stands filled with all kinds of festival food like burgers, hotdogs, chicken fingers and pizza.

My personal favorite part of the experience was enjoying a fun activity with my family. In my house, we are all big Bruins fans so enjoying something we all like together is one of the best things I could ask for.

Overall the event was a smashing success and kicked off the most watched regular season hockey game in television history with 1.8 million views. Next year, the Winter Classic will be the Vegas Golden Knights at the Seattle Kraken. Will the viewership continue to skyrocket?