A First-Hand Report From the Winter Classic

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[Editor’s Note: Ever wonder what it’s like to attend the NHL Winter Classic? Longtime reader Chris Mycoskie has a first-hand account of yesterday’s Stars/Predators game at the Cotton Bowl. Enjoy. — PL]

By Chris Mycoskie

A year ago, the NHL announced that the 2020 Winter Classic would be held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. I was fortunate enough to land tickets at face value the day they went on sale in April, and my son and I were looking forward to the game throughout the rest of 2019. We go to a lot of Allen Americans games (they’re the ECHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild), but this would be my son’s first NHL game. He’s been talking about going to “the big hockey game in the big stadium” for months.

As you’d expect, we saw lots of fans in jerseys on our way to the game:

It was a pretty solid mix of primary Dallas Stars jerseys and Winter Classic jerseys. Throughout the course of the day, I saw every jersey the Stars have worn since their arrival in 1993 (even a few Mooterus sightings). Some people broke out Minnesota North Stars apparel. On the Nashville side, it was the same mix of primary and Winter Classic designs. I did spot one guy wearing a Dixie Flyers jersey, which was the inspiration for Nashville’s Winter Classic uniform.

I’d venture that at least 80% of the fans were dressed in hockey sweaters. And they wanted more of them! If you wanted to buy a jersey or any other merchandise outside the stadium, the lines were very long. It took at least a half-hour to get to the front of the line in the merch tent or any of the kiosks. I opted to pass. Can always get the stuff online later.

We made our way through the State Fair Midway as much as we could, given the crowds. Since the NHL branded most things throughout the grounds, I was surprised that the prizes for the basketball shot, balloon pop, and other games were the same stuff that’s available during the actual fair in September and October (basketballs with NCAA school logos, stuffed animals, etc.), instead of NHL-related items.

The Midway Barker, a staple of the State Fair, was offering up his dad-joke humor throughout pregame, with additional performances during intermissions. He wore a custom Winter Classic jersey, in the style of the 1999-2007 Stars:

Inside the stadium itself, our first stop was the concession stand. Surprisingly, no souvenir cups for fountain drinks — just plain white Styrofoam. The vendors were uniformed in Winter Classic knit caps and windbreakers. All of the in-venue personnel had similar-looking gear, but in different colors depending on their roles.

Watching hockey in a stadium was, well, different. Up in section 210, it was hard to follow the puck and difficult to see the players’ numbers. Certainly not how I’d want to watch hockey on a regular basis. But with this being a regular season game and the result not mattering all that much (as opposed to a playoff game, where I’m usually locked in on every aspect of the game), I was fine with not having the greatest view.

Although the game was in Dallas, the NHL was running the event, not the Stars, so the league made it look like a neutral site. Signage featured the Predators and Stars evenly.

They also replaced the Stars’ music man, the legendary Michael “Grubes” Gruber, with the Golden Knights’ guy. Thankfully, Pantera’s “Puck Off” was still included, but other signature Stars elements were absent, such as playing “Darkness Music” after the opponent’s goals. That felt odd after Nashville’s two early scores. It was a bit disappointing to have the Dallas home game feel scrubbed from the presentation.

Still, it was a special day. Hearing most of the 85,000 people shout, “STARS!” twice during the national anthem was everything I dreamed it would be. Unfortunately, my little guy started to melt down in the middle of the second period, so we had to bail and missed the epic comeback, but I’m glad the good guys got the win!

———

Thanks, Chris. One other note from the game involved the teams’ outfits as they arrived at the stadium:

Meanwhile, as is customary, the NHL made a New Year’s Day announcement regarding the venue for next year’s Winter Classic: It will be played at Target Field in Minnesota, with the Wild as the host team. It’s not year clear who the opponent will be.

Wondering what the Wild will wear for the occasion? The Athletic had some thoughts on that. The article is paywalled, but here’s an interesting tidbit that someone posted:

Hmmm, league-wide throwbacks? Intriguing!

• • • • •

• • • • •

Wildgoose chase: Funny moment in yesterday’s Rose Bowl, as Wisconsin cornerback Rachad Wildgoose was chasing Ducks.

But the real uni-related showstopper in that game came at sunset, when Oregon’s chrome helmets reflected the colorful sky:

• • • • •

Sorry, no Ticker today, but we’ll be back to full-fledged content tomorrow. See you back here then. — Paul

34 comments to A First-Hand Report From the Winter Classic

  • BurghFan | January 2, 2020 at 9:05 am |

    Not only did the Predators arrive in costume, but so did the Stars. And Dallas’ coach stuck with the theme behind the bench.

    • Paul Lukas | January 2, 2020 at 9:12 am |

      Thanks, Jerry. I’ll add that to the entry.

    • Block "O Canada" | January 2, 2020 at 12:25 pm |

      Really like the look of the Dallas Stars players arriving in cowboy attire. Makes me think they have a real “blue collar” work ethic. ;)

  • Greg | January 2, 2020 at 9:05 am |

    Question RE: Wisconsin, which I am sure has been addressed before, what is the deal with the white diagonal break in all of the stripes on their uniform? I assume it has to have some meaning.
    Never been a fan of the chrome helmets, but they were totally worth it last night.

    • DJ | January 2, 2020 at 9:12 am |

      It’s Under Armour’s design element for Wisconsin, representing the State Motto: “Forward.”

      • Memal | January 2, 2020 at 9:28 am |

        I’ve been wondering that too. It’s an element I don’t hate, but I’m not sure if it really fits either.
        I agree with Greg about how well the chrome helmets looked last night.

      • Greg | January 2, 2020 at 11:22 am |

        Interesting, thanks. I actually thought it might have been an old design quirk and not a modern intentional design element.

  • Oakville Fennel | January 2, 2020 at 9:05 am |

    Thanks Chris for the report. The game looked great on television, not surprised the NHL is considering league-wide throwbacks, as throwbacks tend to be great looking uniforms.

    While not to make light of Corey Perry’s cheap shot (maybe unintentional – although he’s a player that has a reputation) – but I heard it described as the longest “walk of shame” ever in NHL history.

    • Kyle Schroeck | January 2, 2020 at 10:28 am |

      All the lead up to the game, all the fanfare… 5 and a game, 1st shift.

  • Butch B | January 2, 2020 at 9:27 am |

    Great to read Chris’ coverage. Was a beautiful game to watch on TV. Disappointing result, but pleasing to the eye.

  • Paul Lee | January 2, 2020 at 10:19 am |

    Mirrors.

  • jcain | January 2, 2020 at 11:05 am |

    Calling it here: 2021 Winter Classic match-up will be Wild vs Jets.

    • Greg | January 2, 2020 at 11:27 am |

      Always think it is missed opportunity when they do the classics at baseball stadiums when football stadiums are just a better fit given the field dimensions and seating. Univ of Minnesota’s TCF stadium would work just as well. When was the last time a Canadian team played in the Winter Classic? Seems like unofficial policy that the Winter Classic is for US teams and the Heritage Classic is a Canada only affair.

    • RS Rogers | January 2, 2020 at 11:59 am |

      While Canadian teams have played in 2 Winter Classics, the NHL seems to be pretty consistent lately that Winter Classic is for US teams, Heritage Classic, for Canadian. I expect Columbus to be the opponent in 2021 and subsequently a host in the mid-2020s. If so, we could already pencil in the Blue Jackets’ Winter Classic uniform being the best-looking uni the team has ever worn.

    • Tim | January 2, 2020 at 12:12 pm |

      Wild vs. Seattle Team to be named laters

      • Tim | January 2, 2020 at 1:05 pm |

        My Bad…the Seattle Team to be named laters don’t start play until the 2021/22 season…

    • oakville endive | January 2, 2020 at 2:58 pm |

      I could see it, even if it means sticking a Cdn team on US television. The Jets are one of the more exciting teams in the league, I have to believe the fan base will travel well and more and more the NHL is willing to take chances.

      Or it could be the Blues. Hawks would be a little on the boring side.

  • John p | January 2, 2020 at 11:35 am |

    Watching the Winter Classic, while also enjoying Illinois’ first day of legal weed lead me to this, clearly amazing, idea. Basketball/hockey arenas with retractable roofs, so basketball and hockey could be played with an outdoorsy feeling. No? OK, fine, it’s probably a horrible idea.

  • Rob S | January 2, 2020 at 1:49 pm |

    The helmets were the only remotely good thing about the Ducks’ unis in the Rose Bowl. What even is that color? It’s not quite black, but not quite green…

    • Jerry | January 2, 2020 at 1:57 pm |

      Oregon’s jerseys and pants were also “not green, not black”. You could tell there was green when the sun was directly above, but later, everything went black.

      • RS Rogers | January 2, 2020 at 4:02 pm |

        The only time I could tell for sure there was green on the uni was when Ducks players would walk in front of the yellow on-screen 1st down line before sunset but in shaded portions of the field. Whatever setting were adjusted to get the yellow line to show up on the shadow-darkened grass also made the line show up on Oregon jerseys and pants.

        Oregon has worn some dreadful uniforms over the years, but even by Oregon’s Nike-depressed standards, those were some amazingly bad uniforms last night.

        I watched the game with several very casual football fans, all of whom found the idea of a team wearing something other than its actual team colors to be some combination of confusing, mystifying, and frustrating. “If they’re wearing black, why are the graphics on the screen for them green?” is a fair summary of the conversation that would happen every time someone new joined us through the first quarter.

      • Rob S | January 2, 2020 at 5:52 pm |

        I was referring to the jerseys and pants with the color issue. The helmets were obviously chrome. (Posted from my phone earlier, didn’t think to explain that more clearly until later.)

  • Ryan Lowmiller | January 2, 2020 at 5:23 pm |

    The event was poorly planned in regards to entry into the stadium and the midway. I spoke to a guy that had been in line for 2 hours at the merchandise stand. Ridiculous lines for concessions and bathrooms. The Stars fans were respectful and pleasant to the fans from Nashville. I enjoyed the first 10 min of the game but the better team won.

    • Marcus Ramsey | January 2, 2020 at 5:35 pm |

      As much as I want the Stars to beat Nashville, the people there from Nashville were friendly and I almost wish they played their goal celebration as it’s one of the better ones in the league and hearing the 20,000 Preds fans there do the cheer would have been neat.

  • Ian M | January 2, 2020 at 5:32 pm |

    Hey Paul
    Got my raffle prize in the mail today. Thanks! I took an internet break over the holidays and didn’t know I won until now.
    Fits perfectly. Thanks again
    Ian

  • Marcus Ramsey | January 2, 2020 at 5:33 pm |

    My take from my visit to the Winter Classic is really similar. The good parts were the game, which was awesome. The presentation was great as well, they had horses and a longhorn, pig races, dancers, ropers, jugglers, and all sorts of stuff going on during breaks in play. The weather was great, maybe the only time you would want an overcast cool day, but it helped the whole feeling of it being winter.

    I’m a Dallas fan and I liked our uniforms, but I also liked the Nashville design. The cat logo on the shoulder was awesome and the game looked good on the ice and the signage around the stadium looked great with a wooden “ranch” feel.

    The cons were the logistics of the crowd. As far as I know there was one way into the arena and the entire fairgrounds were not open, just the midway. This forced the 85,000 people there into many confined spaces. The fun stuff you saw people doing on TV like taking slap shots and whatnot, that stuff was impossible to actually do.

    We got there two hours early, hoping to eat some food and buy a beanie hat and some gloves for my fiance. We spend a ton of time standing and figured out that we should just head into the stadium. We got to our level and there was a concession stand that only had a tiny bowl of cheese nachos and bottled soda/beer. I really was hoping to get a cup from the game, but there was no fountain soda or draft beer. I’m assuming this was because there was only Bud Light beer products and Pepsi (NHL Official Sponsors) and they just sent in a ton of bottles/cans versus trying to use the in stadium draft/fountains. Anyways, after getting a snack and sitting down there was only about 30 minutes until puck drop, so it took an hour and a half to get from the entrance to our seats.

    Our seats were on the second deck of the bowl and like mentioned by Chris, the game was completely watchable, but things like TV numbers or who is who on the ice was tough unless you saw the number on their back. I actually expected it to be nearly impossible to watch, but it was easy enough to track the puck and I intentionally tried to watch the actual game as much as possible versus using the in stadium screen, as I recorded the game on TV and would watch it when I got home for the closer view, so I could take in the game from the seat view, which I’ll not be able to do again.

    The NHL took control of the in stadium stuff, when this was announced it made me worried as the Stars have a pretty fun group that runs their in arena stuff, but they did bring in Jeff K (our in arena announcer) to help. I found it to be a good balance between neutral and a normal home game. My fiance and I go to a few Stars games a year and she loved the in game stuff, but we both wished there were vendors going around the stadium with hot dogs or soda/water as waiting in line would have definitely cut into the game.

    For you fans in Minnesota, or any future team that gets the Classic, it’s a blast to go to and I would highly recommend it. The NHL gets some stuff wrong sometimes, but this is definitely done right.

  • Tim Casey | January 2, 2020 at 6:42 pm |

    I would absolutely LOVE IT if for next year’s Winter Classic, the Wild went with the jerseys from the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA