|So. Many. People.|
Chemmy at Pension Plan Puppets already had a small rebuttal for Cam Cole, the author of the story (remember our distrust for people with two first names as a name), but we have our own on why the Maple Leafs are just as deserving to be involved in a Winter Classic as much as any other team:
So far, four Original Six teams have competed in the Winter Classic, and the Montreal Canadiens in two Heritage Classics. That leaves one last storied team to play in the outdoor game that brings hockey back to its roots. While Cole writes an Original Six would have an undeniable charm, he doesn't think it would have the rivalry feel as much as Boston vs. any other team would. Why does it have to be a blood-feud game? Appreciate the classics.
On the topic of rivalry, the Detroit Red Wings-Toronto Maple Leafs is still a rivalry, just ask the fans. While you may not have the intense hate on the ice, it's in the stands. With the cities within roadtrip distance, rival fans are always visible and audible at the Joe or ACC. Just because they don't play each other as much anymore doesn't mean the fans have forgotten about the 80s and 90s. The build-up for this Winter Classic could serve as a nice history lesson for the NHL.
If you're going to fill a stadium with a record-breaking 115,000+ people, you will probably need some fan power in Leaf Nation. One of the biggest fanbases in all of hockey will certainly help fill The Big House, sell merchandise and help viewership worldwide as they tune in for a historic game for the franchise. They won't care if they can barely see the puck, the Winter Classic is an experience and to share it with over a hundred thousand people only adds to it.
Of course Cole saved his 1967 Stanley Cup reference for the final sentence. The Winter Classic isn't for the Stanley Cup so that shouldn't be relevant and there have been teams that had longer Cup droughts than the Leafs playing in the Winter Classic before (Chicago) or without a Cup (Washington) if he does think it's relevant. Sure the Leafs haven't made the playoffs since the lockout, but remember when teams featured in the Winter Classic like Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Buffalo, New York, and Boston finished last in their divisions and the bottom of their conferences within the past decade?
HBO 24/7 Storylines
It’s hard to imagine HBO finding a real gripper on either Detroit’s side or Toronto’s, unless they turn the cameras on Brian Burke and push his buttons. There are plenty of potential storylines that could be in play come next December that would appeal to hockey fans, and not just the ones surround Ron Wilson and Brian Burke. The Leafs are one of the youngest teams in the NHL and to see how under-25-year-olds act in front of a camera would be pure gold. The Leafs making the turnaround and competing for a playoff spot would also be great TV, rather than having two great teams leading their divisions and dominating. One of the great things about Caps/Pens HBO 24/7 was the unwinding the Capitals went through, there was drama, excitement, anger, genuine happiness - all emotions that you get consistently with a playoff bubble team.
Sure I'm a Leaf fan, but I can separate my bias to know that the Leafs in a Winter Classic is a good thing for the NHL.