2014 NHL Winter Classic to likely be highest rated, most social (and snowiest?) yet

By Natan Edelsburg 

hi-res-167200855-look-at-the-2014-nhl-winter-classic-jerseys-displayed_crop_northIn 2009, Sports Illustrated’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote the following about the NHL’s Winter Classic: “But now hockey owns New Year’s Day the way baseball owns the Fourth of July and football owns Thanksgiving.” The idea was obvious, but the actual execution was a different story: play a nationally televised NHL game outdoors. Since 2008, NHL games have become a New Year’s Day staple, played at some of America’s largest baseball and football stadiums.

The Winter Classics have been among the highest-rated NHL regular season games, and the trend will likely continue this year, with the Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs game being held at Michigan Stadium.

The game will likely be a top trending topic on Twitter and across social platforms. During a conference call on Monday, the following question was posed:

How much of an impact do you feel the weather has on whether or not maybe more people will watch? How important is it to get that kind of Buffalo snow you had for the first Classic for you like tomorrow? And if you were running the show for the Super Bowl this year, would you want that kind of winter wonderland? Or do you feel the weather isn’t as important as maybe some people make it out to be?

Sam Flood, Executive Producer, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network, answered:

Well, I’ll go backwards first. I mean I think the Super Bowl in the snow would be a cool visual and I look forward to watching it from Sochi in the middle of the night. So it’ll be fun. I look forward to seeing the snow and seeing people out in the snow for the Super Bowl.  And I think in hockey, the success of the Winter Classic started in Buffalo because of that snow because I think that snow globe effect is something that people started talking about immediately. And social medial is so much more active today than it was then. So I imagine if the snow game and the snow globe is in effect in Michigan, we’re going to have a lot of people pushing traffic to NBC on Wednesday because I think the word will get out in a different way than it could have even in 2008 — which is remarkable to think how recent that was. So we’re excited. We think it is a big part of it. We just don’t need a blizzard because we’d like them to be able to make crisp passes, but at the same time have a little bit of that snow globe effect.

Flood recognizes that while snow may be a contributing factor for higher ratings, social media will be the true driving force; the first Winter Classic in 2008 in Buffalo may have had snow, but social TV was in too nascent a stage then to have a compounding effect.

The Winter Classic took place at 1 p.m. EST on NBC. We’ll post the ratings when they’re released.