“It changed the way hockey was viewed.” – Flood on the inaugural Winter Classic
“I feel somewhat cheated that this thing started only 10 years ago. It’s the celebration of the sport.” – Milbury
“They all relish the opportunity to play in a Winter Classic.” – McGuire on NHL players
“We were out in the elements, and I never minded it one bit. It’s always a favorite of mine.” – Emrick on inaugural Winter Classic
STAMFORD, Conn. – December 27, 2017 – On Monday, Dec. 18, NBC Sports Group’s lead NHL broadcast team of Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (play-by-play), Mike Milbury (analyst), and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside the Glass’ Analyst), as well as executive producer Sam Flood, previewed the upcoming 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® featuring the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres at Citi Field in New York City on Jan. 1, 2018, at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.
This marks the 10th anniversary of the NHL’s signature regular-season game, and both the Sabres and Rangers are set to make their second appearance in the iconic event. Emrick, Milbury and McGuire will have the call of Rangers-Sabres on New Year’s Day, while NHL Live hosts Liam McHugh and Kathryn Tappen will be on-site alongside former players and analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones to provide pre-game and post-game analysis, as well as commentary during intermissions.
Following are highlights from last week’s media conference call:
ON THEIR MEMORIES OF THE WINTER CLASSIC
Flood: “I remember 10 years ago up in Buffalo, when we launched the first one of these, there was a very skeptical feel whether it was going to work and what it was going to be like. We were very fortunate that snow came in the morning of that first game and created a snow globe effect. With Bob Costas and Mike Milbury down at ice level bringing us on the air, you knew right off the bat it was going to be special, it was going to be different. And then having Doc and Eddie down on a platform in the elements with Doc trying to read his chart with all the players’ names and numbers and stats as the colors ran together because the snow mixed with his Sharpie pen and made just a nice ink splotch.”
Milbury: “I feel somewhat cheated that this thing started only 10 years ago. It would have had to start close to half a century ago if I could have played in one. But it’s great to see the players so engaged and take it so seriously and at the same time incorporate that essence of joy of playing the game.”
Emrick: “I will say that my favorite three out of the eight (Winter Classics) that I’ve done were Ralph Wilson Stadium, Fenway Park, and Michigan Stadium. They’re in some cases different reasons, but the common reasons for my favorite three being those were each had snow at some time or all day, each was cold, and each went to overtime or had a shootout.”
ON THE SUCCESS OF THE WINTER CLASSIC
Flood: “The Sabres deserve this. They were the ones that took the risk and said they were ready to host that first Winter Classic because (NBC Sports President, Programming) Jon Miller had been looking for an opportunity to do this outdoor game, and the Sabres were the club that stepped up and took the risk and turned it into a must-see TV moment. I think it changed the way hockey was viewed. It made events for the regular season.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WINTER CLASSIC TO PLAYERS
McGuire: “When players get into the league and establish themselves, there’s three things they want to accomplish. One is to win the Stanley Cup, two is to have the opportunity to play in a best-on-best tournament, whether that be the World Cup of Hockey or the Olympics, and the third is to play in a Winter Classic.”
I have not met one player, whether before they played in a Winter Classic or after they played in a Winter Classic, that said, ‘Darn, I wish I hadn’t done that.’ They all relish the opportunity to play in a Winter Classic.”
ON THE INTENSITY OF THE WINTER CLASSIC
McGuire: “I think people now know that these games matter. They’re standing points, and you’re playing in front of a national audience. So while it’s not — again, because of the weather elements, it’s not the perfect fast track conditions every single night that you would get in the NHL, you still have to play an NHL game. One of the things that happens a lot of times, there’s a lot of board play, and that leads to a lot of rambunctious behavior.”
Milbury: “As somebody who really grew up playing outside, it’s hard for me to describe the excitement you feel on a pond, on a river, and now even more so, on a homemade rink in the middle of a stadium that will seat 50,000 or 60,000, however many thousands of people. There’s just a new level of adrenaline that they’ll hit.”
As part of the NHL coverage this week, NBCSN will air Episode 3 of the critically-acclaimed “Road to the NHL Winter Classic Presented by Honda” docuseries, which takes viewers behind the scenes as the Rangers and Sabres prepare for the Winter Classic, immediately following tonight’s Capitals-Rangers matchup. NBC will air encore presentations of Episodes 2 and 3 of “Road to the NHL Winter Classic” on Sunday, Dec. 31, at 5 p.m. ET.
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