By Adam Hess
The Chicago Blackhawks fell to the St. Louis Blues by a score of 4-1 in Monday’s Winter Classic, marking their third straight loss in outdoor games, and keeping them winless in Winter Classic events, having lost all three times they’ve been a part of the event. They also fall to just 1-4 in outdoor events, with their only win coming in the 2013 Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.
It’s somewhat ironic to see the Blackhawks struggle so mightily in the outdoor environment when the NHL continues to put them into these events. Some were mentioning that it seems strange that the Blackhawks would continue to accept these appearances when they continue to struggle in those games, and their fans and NHL fans alike both seem to be sick of them appearing in these events.
However, the Blackhawks lack of success in these events is hardly anything for their fans to worry about. While there is a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding the Winter Classic and other outdoor games, along with the increased exposure of having the game broadcast on national television, at the end of the day these games are just regular season games that only count for up to two points in the standings.
The St. Louis Blues don’t get to hang a banner in the Scottrade center to congratulate themselves for the win – though many Blackhawks fans were joking that they will anyway, since they’ve never won a Stanley Cup – and the Blackhawks aren’t eliminated from the playoffs or future outdoor game participation because of the loss.
And while fans of the team and league may be sick of seeing the Blackhawks in these games because they’d prefer to see other teams get that exposure, it’s hard to deny that the Blackhawks are a bona fide slam dunk in the ratings for the NHL and NBC. They’ve posted record numbers for ratings in the Stanley Cup FInal every time they’ve appeared in them, and continue to draw in good audiences for these events.
Having the Hawks in these events is still a good idea for the league, so long as they mix up the their opponents. It also makes a lot of financial sense for the Hawks to agree to be in these games, since they can make a hell of a lot of money.
The Blackhawks are likely going to get more appearances in outdoor games in the future, and could even play host again very soon. Hawks fans and NHL fans alike may grow sick of it, but it remains a possibility, and there may even be pieces in motion already to get them in a game next year. It may be annoying, and they may even end up losing that game, but at the end of the day, it makes a lot of sense for them, and it’s only a regular season game.