The National Hockey League’s annual outdoor game, the Winter Classic, has quietly replaced college football bowl games as the talked-about sports event on New Year’s Day.
On Saturday, the Washington Capitals, led by superstar Alexander Ovechkin, will travel to Pittsburgh, where they’ll play Sidney Crosby and the Penguins at Heinz Field. The game has gotten a lot of advance play thanks to a weekly “Hard Knocks”-like documentary on HBO and a major push from NBC Sports, which will be televising it.
The NHL has made no secret that it would like to have New York City host a Winter Classic, and the scuttlebutt has been that Yankee Stadium is the preferred venue. Unfortunately for the NHL, the Yankees have made a major commitment to the Pinstripe Bowl, a clash between a Big 12 and Big East college that’s to be played sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The inaugural Pinstripe Bowl is scheduled to take place today, Dec. 30.
“I would love to work with the NHL on its Winter Classic but we are locked into the Pinstripe Bowl for the next three years,” Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost told me last week at a press conference. “Perhaps they can move the game to another date.”
Since that is not likely to happen, the NHL may have to turn to Plan B. Citi Field is dormant as soon as the Mets season is over (yes, some would say that it’s dormant even when the Mets are playing) and Jeff Wilpon, Trost’s titular counterpart on the Mets, is on the record as wanting the game for Citi Field. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is a Forest Hills native, so that could help as well.
Former Cardozo High School hoops star Royal Ivey was back in town last week as his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, took on the Knicks. I asked him if he has gotten used to living in the Sooner State’s capital. “I’ve gone from the city that never sleeps to the city that sleeps!” Royal said with a chuckle.
Anyone who has spent any time in a press box was deeply saddened by the sudden passing of radio producer Joel Blumberg, who grew up in Woodside. Among the media with Queens ties who attended his funeral were Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose; Sirius XM Home ice hockey analyst and Bayside High alum Ashley Scharge; and 1010 WINS sports anchor Mark Ernay, who is an adjunct professor of broadcasting at St. John’s University.
The Jets, who backed into the playoffs last week, despite losing to the Bears 38-34 last Sunday, should be grateful that the beleaguered Giants were able to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars Thanksgiving weekend. When the Jaguars lost to the Redskins on Sunday, the Jets were able to clinch a post-season berth.
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin will probably be fired if his team doesn’t beat the Redskins this Sunday.