At 10 this morning, you have an opportunity to give your hard-earned money to the NHL for a very special event: tickets go on sale for the Feb. 25 Stadium Series game at Heinz Field between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Spend as little as $54 or as much as $275, and it’s all for a regular-season game worth the same two points as the other 81 regular-season games.
But let me tell you something: It’s totally worth it!
I know, right? Me, the cynic, is telling you that an NHL event designed to extract a few more dollars from fans is great. But it is. Would I personally pay $275? Of course not, but if it’s in your price range, go for it. I’ve yet to hear a story of disappointment about attending any outdoor game.
I’ve been to seven outdoor games — including the ones the Penguins lost in 2011 and Flyers lost in 2012 — and they’re just one big party. If you like drinking beer outside in the cold, this is your day. Plus, the NHL moved this game to 8 p.m., so you’ll be able to get your tailgate on for hours.
One more added benefit to this year’s game between the Penguins and Flyers — rivalry games are always better. And I don’t mean the B.S. version of rivalries that NBCSN shoves down our throats on Wednesday — I mean a real one where everyone in the building hates each other.
There’s a 50-50 chance you will get to see a heavily intoxicated man in a Flyers Mark Recchi jersey square off with a heavily intoxicated man in a Penguins Mark Recchi jersey. You can’t put a price on that sort of entertainment!
(Well, you can, and it’s $275.)
Here are some facts, figures and stuff about these teams to get you excited to enter your credit card information on Ticketmaster’s site this morning.
Penguins and Flyers are losers
Yeah, you heard me. Go ahead, fight me.
I’m in New Jersey and not going to the game, so you’ll never have a chance to hurt me. But seriously, as far as outdoor game histories go, the Penguins and Flyers don’t have good ones.
The first Winter Classic was played between the Penguins and Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008. The Penguins won 2-1, but they needed a shootout to beat the Sabres. It was a special moment that saw Sidney Crosby score the shootout winner amidst the snowflakes, a memory that was meant to be etched in time before the NHL started playing like four outdoor games a year.
The Penguins and Flyers have played four outdoor games since 2008 and lost all four. The Flyers lost one-goal games to the Bruins and Rangers in 2010 and 2012, respectively, while the Penguins lost 3-1 to the Capitals at Heinz Field in 2011 and then got throttled by the Blackhawks 5-1 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
So the bad news is Pennsylvania’s teams stink in outdoor games. The good news is one of them has to win!
The leading scorers
With five combined games, the Penguins and Flyers have surely amassed some sterling individual numbers in these contests. So who are the active leaders in outdoor points on the current roster?
In three games, Sidney Crosby has … hmm, just one assist. But Evgeni Malkin has … just one goal. Yeah, but Kris Letang has … one assist. That’s not good. Well, what about Phil Kessel? He played at Michigan Stadium as a member of the Maple Leafs and had … geez, one assist.
They are all tied with Marc-Andre Fleury. Who also has one assist.
The Penguins’ most dominant outdoor player is Eric Fehr, who had three goals in two games while he was with the Capitals. Two of those goals were scored in the 2011 Winter Classic … in a win against the Penguins.
Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn scored the Flyers’ goals in their 3-2 loss to the Rangers in 2012. I’d go into more detail, but I write a weekly column for a Pittsburgh web site, so who cares about Philly?
Oh, wait. This is running on Billy Penn too, isn’t it? Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell have solid outdoor histories with the Flyers, but they don’t work there anymore. The Flyers’ last outdoor game was so long ago that the big story was the benching of Ilya Bryzgalov in favor of Sergei Bobrovsky.
Arrest is history
While you and I are responsible, all-day drinkers that can enjoy an outdoor sporting event responsibly, some of these games bring out society’s true winners.
Take last year, when the Bruins and Canadiens played in Foxborough. Now there’s a heated rivalry. How heated? A dude went to the game with a cavalcade of weapons — including a meat cleaver —and was arrested in the parking lot. Original Six hockey, baby!
Two years ago, during the Red Wings-Leafs game in Michigan, there were two arrests and 11 ejections, many of which were for peeing in public. That’s relatively tame, and the pee pee ejection numbers would have been greater if it wasn’t so cold.
In 2012, a dude in Philadelphia was arrested for knocking out a freaking off-duty cop and Iraq war veteran.
Consider this Billy Penn getting out in front of any similar issues for the 2017 game between equally hateful rivals.
Don’t bring a cleaver to the game. Don’t tinkle in public. And please don’t physically assault veterans.
And if you buy tickets and plan to travel to Heinz Field, tweet me your seat, and I’ll look for you on TV. Unless you can afford the $275 seats. You get enough in life.
Dave Lozo is a freelance hockey writer who has worked for NHL.com, Bleacher Report and The Score. He writes nationally for Vice Sports, Uproxx, The Comeback and is one half of the Nerdist podcast Puck Soup. He pens a weekly column on the Pens for The Incline.