The NHL Winter Classic ice hockey game has been held since 2008, and it’s a staple of the outdoor calendar for the National Hockey League (NHL). In 2020, it takes place on New Year’s Day at Dallas’s Cotton Bowl, where the Nashville Predators will go into battle with the Dallas Stars.
What is the NHL Winter Classic?
This event is one of three series of regular outdoor games run by the NHL, the other two being the NHL Heritage Classic and the NHL Stadium Series.
It takes place on or around New Year’s Day each year, typically in a baseball or football stadium in a city with a local NHL side.
Promoted as a return to ice hockey’s outdoor roots, and designed to recreate pond hockey, the Winter Classic has become a premier NHL event, and it’s hugely popular, with sky-high attendance and TV ratings.
Sports Illustrated columnist Dan Shaughnessy said of the Winter Classic:
Now hockey owns New Year’s Day the way baseball owns the Fourth of July and football owns Thanksgiving.
About the NHL
Based in New York since 1989, the NHL is widely viewed as one of the world’s premier professional ice hockey leagues, and one of North America’s most important sports leagues.
It was established in November 1917 in Montreal as a successor to the National Hockey Association, founded eight years earlier.
As of 2017, there were 31 teams with the addition of Las Vegas, with a 32nd team, Seattle, set to be added in 2021.
There are two leagues or conferences within the NHL, the Eastern and Western ones. The regular season runs from early October until mid-April, at the end of which 16-team playoffs lead to the prestigious Stanley Cup being awarded.
What are the basic rules of ice hockey?
The rules of the game are refreshingly simple. Every game is made up of three 20-minute sections, with a pause between each one. Each period starts with a ‘face-off’ as two competing players vie to seize possession of the puck that the referee drops into the rink’s centre circle.
If the score is tied at the end, there is overtime. In the regular season, this is a five-minute sudden-death affair in which the first side to score wins. A penalty shoot-out will decide things if overtime doesn’t – there are no draws in this sport.
Finally, ice hockey is played by two teams of six including the goalkeeper.
If an attacking player enters the opposing side’s defence area (as demarcated by a blue line) before the puck, they are called offside. Play is stopped and another face-off must take place in the ‘neutral’ zone.
This is where a player hits the puck from their own half of the rink past the other side’s goal line without it deflecting or coming in contact with another player. Should this happen, play is again stopped, and the puck returned to the pass’s starting point with no goal awarded.
Winter Classic fun facts
- Famous competing teams include the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres
- The Winter Classic is regularly the league’s most-watched regular season contest, and it’s shown on NBC
- In the first event, the Pittsburgh Penguins saw off the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1 in a shoot-out in New York’s Orchard Park
- Sun glare and wind (given the time of year) could give one side an unfair advantage – so players can swap directions at the midway point
- Tickets for the 2020 event sold out back in April 2019, the second-fastest time for this to happen in NHL history
- The 2014 event included the Toronto Maple Leafs; previously only American teams had played – the Canadians beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2
Betting on the NHL Winter Classic
Ice hockey offers a wide range of betting markets, as follows:
- Outright bets on a specific team to win a particular contest.
- Match result is simply where you predict the winning side, either for victory happening within the 60-minute regulation period or including overtime.
- Correct score bets can be for at the end of the match or for a tie at the end of regulation time.
- Goal totals is where you bet on your prediction for the total number of goals scored – you can also bet, say, that there will be at least six goals, or no more than five, and this is known as over/under betting.
- Puck line handicaps is essentially a variation on traditional spread betting, in which a point spread applies to the favourite and underdog. The puck line is typically set at 1.5, with the underdog receiving a +1.5 handicap, the favourite one of -1.5. It means that if you bet on the favourite, they need to win by a minimum of two goals.
The NHL Winter Classic is a great way of beating the early January blues and is something to look forward to after the Christmas festivities. Have a flutter via one of our trusted listed bookmakers to make the whole thing even more exciting and enjoyable. And it’s certainly something different to try in the UK, where there’s no particularly strong tradition of ice hockey, despite the sport becoming increasingly popular.