NHL Winter Classic: I’m Glad Selig Didn’t Think of That

On New Year’s Day, the National Hockey League will play its annual Winter Classic — that’s the one day a year that NHL hockey is played outside, on a rink in a football stadium that’s constructed in a couple of weeks and used precisely once. I was in Pittsburgh for Christmas, and went to Heinz Field to see the Steelers-Panthers game, and got to see the practice rink that was built just outside the stadium; following that game, the gridiron turf would be covered by ice.

I’m not hugely opposed to two-sport arenas — the cookie-cutter baseball-football stadia of the ’70s may have been ugly, but they were serviceable, and terrific baseball was played in them. But I’m glad that baseball hasn’t gotten into trying to build a stadium that has to be demolished a week later. The Winter Classic is a fine idea, and it has proven a ratings boon, but one has to mention: isn’t it gigantically wasteful to build a huge hockey rink that, simply by virtue of its being on a football field, can only be used once?

Inaugurated in 2008, the Winter Classic has proven a ratings boon, garnering the highest ratings of any regular-season NHL game. In fact, it’s so fantastically successful, writes Ken Belson of the New York Times, that “The success of the Winter Classic is a big reason why the N.H.L.’s revenue has risen 85 percent over the past four years.” It’s certainly a compelling premise, combining the massive capacity of most football coliseums with the gimmick of seeing professional hockey played outside.

But that gimmick comes with its own hazards. For example, this year’s game is threatened by a forecast of rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, though the NHL has announced that it will not postpone the game. The Steelers-Panthers game I attended was last Thursday, and the Steelers are at Cleveland this Sunday, which means the rink constructors had a week and a half to build the rink, and they’ll have a few days to dismantle it before the NFL playoffs require Heinz Field’s turf to be available for football. So that’s why the NHL was unwilling to consider postponement.

Baseball has never considered a step this drastic — building a one-use stadium that must be demolished after a single game — though it has pursued other exotic locales for games. In 2003 and 2004, the soon-to-be-orphaned Montreal Expos played a number of regular season games in the small Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 2000, 2004 and 2008, the first regular season games of the year were played in Tokyo; in 1999, the season opener was in Monterrey, Mexico, and in 2001, the season opener was in San Juan. The World Baseball Classic has opened up even more venues to baseball.

To its credit, though, Major League Baseball has used parks that were already standing. The Tokyo Dome is one of the most prominent stadiums in Japan, so there was good reason to play there. Moreover, though Hiram Bithorn Stadium only seats 18,000, the stands were raucously packed, and the Expos drew more fans per game in San Juan than they had done all year in Montreal.

In fairness, it’s not a completely valid analogy. Baseball is already an outdoor sport that’s occasionally played indoors — unlike professional hockey, an outdoor sport that’s always played indoors — so there is no parallel gimmick to attract fans on the basis of seeing baseball played in a different context. (Though you could probably have a similar effect by getting fans to vote on whether the walls should be moved in or out for just one day, so you could turn Petco into Fenway, or vice versa. Maybe they could call it the “Park Effect Classic.”) But even still, wouldn’t it be better to build a rink in a place where you could keep it? I’m not a flaming environmentalist, but the Winter Classic’s carbon footprint can’t exactly be neutral.

I don’t begrudge the NHL its ratings, and following the lockout, the league needs all the help it can get. But I’m glad that, as crass as MLB’s money grabs have often seemed, they haven’t come to the point of building a park just to tear it down two weeks later. I don’t often get to praise Bud Selig for restraint, but here goes: thanks for holding back on this one, Bud.

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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

121 Responses to “NHL Winter Classic: I’m Glad Selig Didn’t Think of That”

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  1. Rice Cube says:

    They had the past two Winter Classics at Wrigley and Fenway. Granted it was during the offseason so there was plenty of time to build and then tear down, but just sayin’…

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  2. Danmay says:

    That does sound disgustingly wasteful. That being said, national sports – from an environmental percpective – are already very wasteful. I guess what I’m saying is that building a hockey rink for a single game only seems wasteful relative to what we already do. I am glad that Bud isn’t looking to one up this NHL idea though.

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    • Marcus says:

      “the Winter Classic’s carbon footprint can’t exactly be neutral.”

      What an outrage! Almost every other entertainment event has AT LEAST a neutral carbon footprint. Gee, what could Bettman be thinking! He’s gonna melt the freakin’ icecaps!!!

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  3. CircleChange11 says:

    they haven’t come to the point of building a park just to tear it down two weeks later.

    The article seems to sound as if you don’t realize that the stadium is already there, and just the rink (ice-containing structure) is being built. I hardly see the drastic waste.

    NCAA did a similar thing with Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium for college football.

    The NHL idea is a throwback to celebrate outdoor hockey.

    Not unlike MLB in the LA Coliseum.

    Someday in the future, IF all MLB stadiums are domed (please no), MLB might throw some dirt and lines on a field where bleachers already exist and play an “outdoor game”. It would likely be extremely popular and exciting, and not labelled as “wasteful”.

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    • If MLB trucked in a bunch of dirt and grass and spent weeks installing it only to throw it all out the next day, all in order to call a single game in a domed stadium the “Outdoor Classic,” I’d call it wasteful. That’s kinda what’s going on here.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        You’re assuming the NHL is throwing away the rink, but I think it’s much more likely they are reusing, donating, and recycling the material.

        I am a what a lot of people would call a ‘flaming environmentalist,’ but in terms of environmental impacts there are a lot of ways to mitigate the impacts of this game.

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      • MarkInDallas says:

        Yes, what a waste it would be to destroy all that dirt and grass in your scenario.

        Seriously, please stop talking now.

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      • mudie says:


        I, like just about everyone else who read this post and has a cursory knowledge of ice rink construction, was astonish by your lack of research on the subject matter and haphazard critiques leveled at the National Hockey League.

        However, I now see that you have actually stuck around the comments and have likely gotten a not to pleasant remind of the pitfalls of halfhearted work.

        Now, the shaming and hurling of insults is finished and I would like to thank you for sticking around. I, and I’m sure most of the other readers, appreciate your posting of subsequent comments. It speaks well of you and your willingness to be held accountable for what you’ve written.

        I hope to see you getting back to writing about baseball and analysis there of as soon as possible.

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      • Jack Weiland says:

        DavidCEisen is bang on. After the Buffalo outdoor game the rink materials were donated to build a rink in a local community.

        Also, in this instance it’s a pretty quick turnaround, but at past WCs the rinks were around for much longer and more of the community got a chance to skate there, bringing joy and entertainment to thousands. What a waste!

        This article is nothing short of atrocious. Why is it even on Fangraphs? The premise is weak, it’s done poorly, and has very little to do with baseball. Awful.

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  4. Beau says:

    I’ve often played with the idea of silly one-off venues for a game. I’d like to see the Giants play at Candlestick for one game a year, especially a cold, mid-June night game, just to remind everyone how awful it was.

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    • RoyaleWithCheese says:

      That would be awesome, but it’s probably not possible. I think I read somewhere that Candlestick has been permanently converted to football configuration.

      This reminds me of that exhibition game the Dodgers played at the LA Coliseum a couple years ago.

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    • Barkey Walker says:

      Yeah, or the Twins could try a game back in the newly converted “dome.”

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  5. anonymous says:

    “Moreover, though Hiram Bithorn Stadium only seats 18,000, the stands were raucously packed, and the Expos drew more fans per game in San Juan than they had done all year in Montreal.”

    Actually they weren’t–many people argued that the Expos would have drawn significantly more fans in Montreal at this time because they were in the thick of the wild card race (and had been drawing 20,000+ at the time). PR fans came out in the first few games but attendance sucked as the stunt went on.

    Nevermind that MLB required that they re-turf the playing field and expand seating to the outfield sections for a handful of games. Isn’t that wasteful?

    Outdoor rinks go up all around Canada and cold parts of the US every winter. Sometimes it’s only cold enough to get two weeks of ice. Isn’t that wasteful?

    I think you’re overestimating the cost of this operation.

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  6. Michael Sherer says:

    You answered your own question – the game more than pays for itself with the attention and ratings it generates, not to mention ticket sales. The NHL (or any other sport) could care less how “wasteful” something seems as long as it makes money.

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    • Well, yeah. The point I’m making is that it’s wasteful even if it pays for itself.

      Of course, I could be totally misoverestimating the cost of building a rink for a day, as anonymous suggests. But it still strikes me as slightly absurd.

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      • Rice Cube says:

        If it’s not cold enough as it appears to be the case in Pittsburgh this weekend, they would have to install some kind of cooling system or something. Otherwise they could just set up the walls and spray some water into the rink and then smooth it over with a zamboni, it probably doesn’t cost all that much and the walls and plexiglass are all made of recycled or recyclable materials anyway. The one at Wrigley was really popular, and I’m sure the one at Fenway was a blast too. Of course, that was when it was super-cold in both locales, not sure why it’s so warm this weekend, maybe Al Gore farted or something.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Where’s the waste? Man hours? Materials that cannot be recycled or used again?

        What exactly is being “wasted” in terms of “not getting positive value for the investment”?

        You don’t like waste and excess? Welcome to America. *grin*

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        But it still strikes me as slightly absurd.

        So is grown men spending their time writing and talking about baseball statistics.

        Seriously, ask around. It most definitely is absurd, perhaps even wasteful.

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      • a seattle fan says:

        Well maybe next time you should tackle a subject that you know something about. Like baseball. You know. Like this site is about.

        Don’t write stupid articles attacking hockey because you don’t like hockey.

        You’re “misoverestimating” BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!!!!

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Good point. I bet the server hosting this site has a significant carbon footprint.

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  7. Erik says:

    The extra infrastructure required is vastly overstated. The NHL does not build “a one-use stadium” for the Classic. They build a temporary rink.

    Furthermore, I don’t think your point about the rink structure being used once is correct. Someone can correct me, but IIRC the cooling/support equipment is the same year-to-year.

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    • Paul says:

      Of course. A little research about portable ice rinks might be useful before claiming this is wasteful. They build outdoor rinks in San Diego, LA, etc. all the time. And it doesn’t require as much energy as one might assume. Cooling a dome in Arizona, an enormous volume of air constantly being heated by the air rising beneath it, uses much, much more energy than cooling a flat surface area, especially when the ambient air helps – and at anything less than ~ 50 C it is.

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  8. Erik says:

    Separately, you stated you atttended a game at Heinz Field. NFL stadiums are probably the least value-for-environmental impact in sports. Counting the Classic and one home playoff game, I see four events listed on Stubhub through July. I would guess that Heinz Field hosts, at most, 30 events a year (though I don’t know offhand if college football is played there). Compare this to a dual-sport NBA/NHL arena, which hosts 80+ plus events before concerts, ice shows, etc.

    If you want to talk about erecting structures for inefficient uses, the NFL is probably the worst offender around.

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  9. Grant says:

    This will have a neglible carbon footprint. Backyard rinks are constructed every winter day in northern climates, and that’s really all they do in Heinze Field (or Wrigley, or Fenway). That part of the appeal – pop up some removable boards and spray a bit of water on the ground, instant rink. The stadiums already exist, whether fans are at the hockey rink or the outdoor stadium some facility will be used.

    For hockey fans (of which I am one) this is the equivalent of playing a big league baseball game in a cornfield, like Field of Dreams. Just so happens the cornfield is already surrounded by stands that let a bunch of people watch.

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    • Rice Cube says:

      Sort of like what Grant said, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to put up a temp rink inside a stadium that already has seats than the other way around (i.e. put a temp rink on a sheet of ice on a lake or whatever and then have to build enough stands for 20K people around it). I’m almost completely certain that all the materials to put up said rink are recyclable too.

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  10. BillWallace says:

    Wasteful how? I still don’t get it. An entertainment company is producing entertainment, and selling it at a price above its cost (all factors considered). This creates both consumer surplus and profit for the producer according to the standard microeconomic principles.

    If your only argument is the environmental costs (externalities), then your argument extends to all sports entertainment, not just the Winter classic.

    It may seem odd that building a rink for just one game and then tearing it down actually produces positive producer and consumer value, but all the evidence seems to indicate that it does. And given that it does, there is really no argument against it that is not anti-sports as a whole, or anti-capitalist. Kudos to the NHL for this innovation that has helped their business.

    Whether this innovation would translate to baseball is a different story altogether. In theory it might, but I can’t see any obvious analogues. I can understand baseball not jumping on the bandwagon for this reason.

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    • BillWallace says:

      As an addendum: I don’t know what the costs are to put on the winter classic, but it may not be nearly as much as you think, relative to other arena type costs. For example many arenas switch between ice and basketball constantly, and there’s setup and takedown costs associated with that which are obviously not too onerous. The main difference is the network of compressors that create the ice, and from what I understand they use the same equipment from year to year.

      Simply put, the actual costs may not be nearly as much as it seems at just a glance.

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    • Al Dimond says:

      On the environmental front, even on a warm day, the Winter Classic shouldn’t have anywhere near the environmental impact of running public skating rinks around major cities for long periods (when I lived in Chicago the park district operated many, but I’ve also seen them in San Jose and Los Angeles — I’m sure San Jose’s got rained on often).

      In the hypothetical case that the Winter Classic did have a drastically large and negative environmental or social impact, I think there could be objections to it that weren’t generally anti-sports or anti-capitalist. You may believe (I say believe because it’s practically impossible to know for sure) that sports in general, or that capitalism in general, produce a net-positive impact for producers, consumers, and others affected, but that one particular event has enough associated negative externalities that it does not. There are many obvious examples of this, both in and out of the realm of sport. Use your brain.

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      • BillWallace says:

        I do agree with your hypothetical. It’s a solid counterpoint. Although we both agree that in this case it doesn’t apply.

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    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      Side note: this actually isn’t the NHL’s innovation; the idea originated at Michigan State, which about a decade ago got the idea of holding its home hockey game against U of M at Spartan Stadium — they called it the “Cold War.” They sold 70,000+ tickets, the fan base was energized, it was a huge success. IIRC, Edmonton picked up on it and held an Oilers-Habs game outdoors at Commonwealth Stadium a couple years later — I think it was the 20th anniversary season of their first Stanley Cup win, or maybe the franchise’s 25th anniversary season, something like that. Anyway, the NHL didn’t start doing the Winter Classic until some years after that.

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      • BillWallace says:

        Good points. I remember the Habs game, and that it started with UM MSU games. Innovation can still involve co-opting someone else’s good ideas to your own purposes, so the NHL still gets plenty of credit.

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  11. Pat says:

    At least the winter classic doesn’t determine home field advantage…

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  12. Pat says:

    For the Championship I mean…

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  13. Ryan says:

    While it may not factor into this years venue because of the NFL playoffs, the rink at fenway was used a number of times for college hockey games and public skating. I can’t speak for other cities, but I can tell you Boston did not use it just once. I’m sure business surrounding the area also appreciated the extra customers not typically around in the off-season. Of course, the Red Sox ownership has proven to be fairly shrewd time and time again to make the most out of Fenway.

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  14. Nick says:

    People toting around their juvenile ideas of what’s “wasteful” is pretty amusing. The winter classic is a revenue juggernaut for the NHL and hardly wasteful.

    BillWallace got it right. One of the reasons I study economics and like talking to people trained in economics is because arguments are focused on facts. The author of the article should take note.

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    • Al Dimond says:

      Ah, the economists, who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

      To be sure, a fact-based analysis of the wastefulness of the Winter Classic would probably find it scoring pretty low. And the awesomeness factor when everything goes right is pretty high.

      But let’s not put economists on a pedestal when so many of them approach things they can’t measure, and things they’re uncertain of, by ignoring them completely.

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      • Nick says:

        Generally speaking economists approach arguments from an evidence, fact-based standpoint that isn’t (as) clouded by moral sentiments and subjective leanings. That’s all. It’s too bad that economics is given a bad name by perilous macro forecasting and shoddy statistical engineering, because that’s not the heart of the subject.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        In the end any economic analysis is beaten to death by the sheer fact that hindsight is 20/20 and economists choose the right way to hande things as often as a 4 year old could by simply picking up pieces of paper. It’s often times, just like politics, complete bullshit.

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      • Al Dimond says:

        There are some types of questions that rightly have no moral or subjective components. Economists aren’t nearly as good at putting them to rest as, say, chemists or physicists, but I’ll cut them some slack because their field is very young and hard to study experimentally.

        But before we can even ask the questions with no moral or subjective components we have to decide what we value. There’s no formula in economics, nor in any other hard science, for that.

        Having no greater facility for moral reasoning than the average schmuck, politicians and popular economists fall back on things they can measure and that sound objective, like economic activity. Which leads to the parable of the accountant and the economist: http://butnottoohard.blogspot.com/2007/10/dialog-between-wind-and-bike.html . Economics without moral reasoning is blind.

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      • James says:

        Do you actually have something to add to the conversation on the temporary rink in question? Or are you content to merely offer a nebulous critique of economists generally? Because your comments to this point are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…

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      • Al Dimond says:

        The things I’m saying are made relevant by the comments I’m replying to. The thrust of these comments is that it is irrational to criticize anything as wasteful, or generally immoral, if it works economically. I wouldn’t have even posted if it wasn’t for the needless, foolish triumphalism.

        The analysis of the original post was laughably bad and shouldn’t have come near the front page of Fangraphs. But the question it asks is in general worth asking. And a general denial of the question’s worth warrants a response.

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  15. Indyball says:

    If you want to target a sport that is wasteful with a huge carbon footprint, maybe you should be attacking motocross … They bring in temporary dirt as well as use gas engines, all to tear it down soon after and head to the next venue … This article seem like it was written by an uninformed author, desperate for a topic. He did do a great job of stirring up the pot though, which is often considered being successful in journalism.

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    • yediyih says:


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    • I’m not committing journalism. It’s a blog post. I freely admit that I’m not particularly informed about hockey. It just strikes me that it’s silly to build a one-use rink.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        Silly to build a one use rink for 80,000 paying fans, with a huge television audience? Would you be mad if the Yankees and the Giants played an interleague game at a Polo Grounds like structure, I for one would pay to see how well Burrell could cover a 600 foot power alley

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      • Jack Weiland says:

        It’s freaking entertainment, man. Yes, it’s silly. So is watching grown men in tight pants swing bats and throw baseballs.


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  16. AJS says:

    While MLB may never have built temporary baseball stadiums, Beijing did for the Olympics. The Wukesong Baseball Field was demolished after the Games to make way for, of all things, a shopping mall.

    So not only did they waste a baseball field, they turned it into a place where people could purchase all sorts of wasteful consumer crap.

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    • Baseball is no longer an Olympic sport, more’s the pity. But at least in Atlanta and Montreal, the Olympics yielded a permanent stadium that was used for years to come. (Say what you will about the Stade Olympique, but it surely was not one-use.)

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      • Paul says:

        But you are so missing the point here. They are simply building the playing field – inside of an existing structure. This is not that much different than preparing it indoors. In fact, the expectation based on historical weather would have been for the ambient air to help out a lot more than it apparently is. Still, the chillers used for a rink like this are very advanced and efficient.

        You need to bone up on the physics of ice building and maintenance. Your view here appears to originate from some childlike assumptions based on images of glacier melting in a global warming film, or that it takes ten minutes for the ice in your glass of Pepsi to melt. It’s not that simple in nature, and it’s definitely not that simple when you’re talking about a dry, flat surface in a relatively controlled environment.

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      • Jack Weiland says:

        Seriously … You don’t get the difference between building an entire stadium and what they do with the Winter Classic? For real?

        Heinz Field will still be used after the WC… I am stunned by your fundamental misunderstanding of basic logic.

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  17. Costa Galanis says:

    I don’t get the complaint. It’s not like you can expect them to build a permanent outdoor hockey stadium… what would it be used for? Building a huge stadium that requires a mass of land like that of a football or baseball field for an activity that can only be performed for a tiny window of the year in places like Pennsylvania or Illinois. What’s wasteful now?

    Besides, elaborate setups are built for limited time events often. It’s not all pure evil. Is this any different than building a giant big top for a carnival or a setup for a parade?

    I don’t understand the hate towards the NHL here.

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      Wasteful now is having teams in Phoenix, Florida, Atlanta, and more that see snow maybe once every 10 years and trying to get people to bite.

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  18. yediyih says:

    building a rink? its not really that hard the ice is large square sheets then zambonied together… then you bring in boards and plexi glass the seats and everything are already there…
    NHL needs events like this to survive because americans are oblivious their city even has a hockey team….
    I don’t understand your problem with it
    doesnt oakland do the exact same thing?
    typical american hating on hockey
    Im just glad a real writer never posted this I never read your stuff anyway

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      Which Oakland NHL team are you referring to? The one in San Francisco or the one in Fremont? Oh wait…. there is no hockey team in Northern California. Typical Canadians not understanding basic geography.

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  19. Mike says:

    In it’s defense, last year in Boston the rink was up in Fenway park for almost 2 months, and housed many charity events and public skating events. So it wasn’t a one time use rink, and it was used to raise a lot of money for good causes.

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  20. James says:

    Sorry, as a hockey fan, this is awesome. This is one of the only good ideas that the NHL has had in the past few decades. Give them some credit.

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  21. TRE says:

    It’s a great idea and it’s awesome to watch each year. Hopefully the weather pans out this year.

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  22. Jesse says:

    Baseball belongs outside. Kids grow up playing hockey outside. If all baseball stadiums were indoors, an Outdoor Classic would be a fantastic idea, just like these Winter Classics are. This premise makes no sense.

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  23. Coach says:

    When a sport needs exposure, it turns to gimmicks in order to do so. Instead of making an exhibition “mean something” only to have the lowest ratings ever this year.

    There is no waste in getting your league national exposure it normally wouldn’t get, and if it weren’t profitable for all parties it wouldn’t happen anyway.

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  24. Dave says:

    Uh, stick to baseball. The Winter Classic is awesome. Something tells me that building a temporary enclosure for a hockey rink (which, by the by, is a much more accurate description of what actually goes on) isn’t going to be the straw that tips us into the globally warmed abyss (because I like mixed metaphors)

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      I’m trying to portray a slippery slope but…. smoking one cigarette itself doesn’t give you lung cancer either it’s a combination of it over time.
      Or for a metaphor using sports, the Winter Olympics itself doesn’t cause a city to become in debt but…… it does add to the pile.

      Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. For all those that say the parts are recyclable, that is wasteful in itself (building the parts that is). I just hope they’re reusing last year’s rink or using the one the Flyers use when they play.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        *I’m not trying to portray a slippery slope

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      • a seattle fan says:

        Yeah, they’re just going to fly across the state of Pennsylvania to Philadelphia and unbolt the rink the Flyers use and fly it to Pittsburgh so the Penguins can use it. Yeah, that won’t be environmentally wasteful.

        If you’re so damn concerned about it, get off your computer. And don’t read books, either.

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      • Paul says:

        What do you think chillers for ice rinks are made from, construction paper? If you hold a large party in your backyard or the park and hire an event planning firm to handle it, do you think they sew the tents and forget he poles beforehand and then toss them after your event? No events would ever be held if that were the case.

        The reason the NHL loves this concept so much is that it garners huge fan interest and setting up an ice rink outside with rented equipment is cheap and easy.

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  25. Dave says:

    Actually, now that I think of it, I wish Selig would have thought of this. Baseball on ice would be craaaaaaaaaazy

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    • Bill says:

      I agree with Dave — Selig for sure should press the button on this idea. In fact, what sport WOULDN’T be great played on ice with wooden walls framing the field of play? Football. Basketball. Jai alai. Dressage. Winter Classic Everything 2011!

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  26. Flaming Environmentalist says:

    NHL Classic, BP, Los Angeles smog, and a F$%KING golf course in Las Vegas. If you think about these, admittedly the Classic is small compared to the others, and aren’t an environmentalist, you have no soul. I mean, a golf course in the middle of a desert!!!!! Does anyone even want to estimate how much that wastes money?

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  27. Michael says:

    If the object of this article is to criticize the wastefulness and negative environmental impact of this event, shouldn’t there be some sort of cost analysis or, at the very least, an actual discussion of why specific things are wrong. It seems like the author just picked a random topic, formed an opinion off the top of their head, and tried to apply it to baseball without actually doing any analysis. It runs in stark contrast to the facts and statistics focus of this website.

    And you certainly didn’t look much into the history of this event or else you would know, as several folks have pointed out, that the previous events were not one-time use, but used many times for public consumption and college games, in particular Fenway Park. The NHL wanted to put Crosby and Ovechkin together and that meant, since the Steelers are a playoff team this year, they don’t have the same time frame to work with as Fenway or Wrigley in years past. You could have argued the NHL should’ve made a greater effort to put the event at PNC park for greater public consumption, but that doesn’t much apply to baseball. I was excited to see the NHL discussed here but the article is half-baked and ignorant so I was left disappointed.

    That being said, I very much enjoyed reading this authors favorite story this year: Joey Bats of the Toronto Blue Jays. I’ll link to it here:


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  28. a seattle fan says:

    So freakin’ what. This article is lame. It’s just some excuse for whatever this guy’s name is to make an article with whatever his name is on the by-line.

    Hey, guy who wrote this, what, no baseball news to write about the next-to-last day of the year? Maybe you should just take a break, drink some brews, and pass out instead.

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  29. MarkInDallas says:

    I hate to tell you, but the enormous amount of toxic electronic waste that every single one of the contributors and readers of fangraphs creates through computer obsolescence absolutely dwarfs the amount of material thrown away from the NHL Winter Classic.

    Who here has not thrown away some electronic component (TV, cell phone or computer) that works perfectly well but was perceived to be out of date after a short life span?

    What has the NHL wasted by putting up and tearing down the WC rink? Water? Concrete? The NHL actually has a whole truck that it reuses now for the Winter Classic and from the videos they have posted of them putting the rink together, it seems that most of the pieces can be reused for future years.

    I have no idea what the author of this article has against hockey, but this piece seems to be simply a vehicle to whine about an activity the author shares no interest in.

    Too bad for him.

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  30. Jon E says:

    Alex…..a few years ago while they were trying to rally support for a new stadium, the Twins were trying to get permission from MLB to erect a temporary stadium in Mall of America’s parking lot to play a couple outdoor games. They had a company design a structure but MLB shot it down….I think safety concerns were the primary reason for scuttling the idea. Somehow they got Target Field built w/o this gem of an idea happening.

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  31. a seattle fan says:

    You know what’s environmentally wasteful (and also baseball related!)? Safeco Field extending the roof when there’s the slightest Seattle drizzle.

    How many environments does that kill???!

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    • Breadbaker says:

      Pretty much none. As of the time Safeco opened, the cost to open or close the roof was about a dollar of energy. Even with subsequent inflation, it’s still essentially meaningless. The thing was quite well engineered.

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  32. Petr says:

    I’d like to have the 3 minutes I wasted reading this article back.

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  33. Andrew says:

    It’s not wasteful. There are companies dedicated entirely to setting up ice rinks. See: Ice Rink Events in TX. They handled the hockey game at Michigan Stadium this month.

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  34. Frank says:

    Alex did you bother to do your research on this article or did you decide just to throw words out there all willy nilly? One simple Google search is all it took for me to get the history of the 2008 Winter Classic rink. A simple Google search of “Winter classic rink” net me to a website (ThinkRink.org) which boasts they bought the rink and now offer skating time to the public for a nominal fee by age.

    Ignoring your liberal use of hyperboles regarding stadiums and rinks, you should of at least picked up the history of the rink before accusing something going to “waste.”

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  35. #6org says:

    Using a stadium that otherwise sits empty is hardly wasteful, but seems on the contrary like a really good use of resources that would otherwise go unused. The seats, the elevators, the parking, the concessions, etc., are already all built and just sitting there, you might as well use them. The parts you put up and take down are cheap and largley recyclable. It’s not like the Zamboni is going to get tossed into the landfill after the game.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  36. Al says:

    The author knows less about basic economics than anyone on the planet. The game is a huge boon to Pittsburgh, equal to a Steelers’ playoff game. A hockey rink is made of…water, and cold. Hardly a problem. The ignorance is off-the-charts. Never run a business, just type up stupid stuff and worry about, gasp, “the waste” of keeping people employed.

    The horror.


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  37. Mike says:

    This is the kind if article so bad you should be fired for ever having written it.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  38. bc says:

    To summarize:
    (1) Not about baseball
    (2) Wrong about the basic facts (rinks are resused; rinks are not typically taken down quickly but stay up for months)
    (3) Spurious conclusion (viz., that it is “wasteful” to cheaply and efficiently use an empty stadium for a very productive means)
    (4) Not one cool WAR graphs was included

    I suggest this article is so bad that you should not only be fired but live-sacrificed on an altar to a pagan god of pestilence and your remains fed to gremlins.

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  39. Arbitrageur says:

    This article is a big bucket of FAIL. Waste of time, and internet space.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  40. Rich says:

    Every year they build a skating rink at Bryant Park in NYC. I kind of understand what the author is getting at because every year I get a little uncomfortable thinking about the way everything will just get torn down again in the spring…but as for the economics of it…I think that has been covered already and the author even admits it’s a good thing for the NHL. And as for the amount of environmental waste, that’s unknown to us but c’mon, the author himself says he’s not a flaming environmentalist. The article is topical but something of a stretch. Still, I say give the guy a break it’s December and he’s writing for a baseball website.

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  41. Powder Blues says:

    I would like to see a comment by the OP at this point.

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  42. Justin says:

    I like hockey.

    I care about the environment.

    I don’t come to FanGraphs to read about either.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  43. HenryVIII says:

    Way to go OT and hit it right on the head! I’m glad Selig has never thought of playing in venues foreign to baseball too, how wasteful, how presumption, who the fuck cares.

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  44. Tim Lindner says:

    What the nhl does for the winter classic really isn’t that different than what they do already. They constantly build and tear down rinks in some buildings because they share venues with basketball teams (washington capitals). The point of this article was wrong from the start. They don’t build all new venues, just tear down and set up a rink. This couldn’t really happen with baseball, unless you put it in a cornfield, which would defeat the purpose of having more people watch it.

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    • Peter says:

      This is exactly right. There are a ton of indoor arenas all over that have basketball and hockey.

      The Nets and Devils share an arena, at least until the Nets new arena opens. You mentioned Capitals and Wizards. The Flyers and Sixers, Avalanche and Nuggets, Leafs and Raptors, Thrashers and Hawks, Blackhawks and Bulls, Mavericks and Stars, Kings and Lakers/Clippers. I know the Honda Center where the Ducks play has been converted to basketball for the NCAA Tournament.

      And that’s just the NHL. Go down a level and the San Antonio Rampage share the same arena as the Spurs, Houston Aeros share with the Rockets, Milwaukee Admirals share with the Bucks, Connecticut Whale share with UConn basketball, Chicago Wolves share with the DePaul basketball team, Charlotte Checkers share with the Bobcats.

      Even the Wisconsin Badgers share the Kohl Center for basketball and hockey.

      I’m sure there are a ton of other examples, but this isn’t uncommon nor is it wasteful. I’m pretty sure none of the teams I just listed go out and get new rinks every time there is a basketball game played. They reuse everything. The ice, the boards, everything is reused. It’s no more wasteful than any other sporting event and probably less wasteful than most.

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  45. Marcus says:

    It’s laughable that you even make this comparison. There is no MLB equivalent to the Winter Classic and a baseball stadium is no equivalent to an NHL rink. Did you not realize they don’t build any seats? That’s the point of building it, temporarily, in the middle of a football stadium that will seat AT LEAST 4 TIMES as many fans as any NHL arena.

    You’re an idiot.

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  46. Breadbaker says:

    When I saw the headline, I thought the topic was going to be quite different. I had just read (while working on something unrelated to baseball) that on February 4, 1861, just before the start of the Civil War, a crowd of 12,000 people gathered around a pond in Brooklyn to watch two teams play baseball on ice. The rules were altered a bit (mainly, you could overskate the bases without penalty) but apparently the experiment was successful.

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  47. Adam Vance says:

    I think they should do a San Pedro De Macoris Classic. Make them play in a sandlot w/ Milk Cartons for gloves, broomsticks for bats, a 56 Bel Air hubcap for 2nd base. That I’d watch.

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  48. robert hamelin says:

    And why is this article on an otherwise good web-site?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  49. bobby flaherty says:

    Last years temporary rink at fenway was busy every minute of the two weeks it was up college games. Public skates. Etc. Red sox made a lot of cash.

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  50. Adrock says:


    This is a great web site.

    This may be the worst article I’ve ever read on the web site.

    Kudos to the readers for so clearly illustrating why it was terrible.

    Mr. Remington, let’s call this a mulligan, and hope that it serves as a reminder to either a) stick to what you know or b) do some basic research before writing about topics that are unfamiliar, so that you don’t put out a product that is far below your usual level of quality.

    Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

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  51. Jeff says:

    Everything other than gathering food and water, and procreation, can be defined as waste, in some manner, by someone. If it’s not included in Maslow’s Physiological needs layer, it’s wasteful.

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  52. MV says:

    This is too funny. Somebody finding enough time to write about a topic he has no knowledge of and doesn’t have anything to do with the website. And then getting trashed in half of 100+ comments.

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  53. StickToBaseball says:

    I just stumbled across this story, and have to point out something. I just quickly skimmed though the comments and didn’t notice anyone else say it, so I apologize if this has already been mentioned by someone else:

    From reading this, I get the feeling that you think that all of the materials for the rink are bought, it’s built — and then it’s torn down and thrown away after the game is over. If you’d done even a few minutes of research you could have easily found out that it’s a portable, re-usable “temporary” rink. All of the boards, glass, etc, came off of the truck and were assembled, and will be taken apart and put back into the truck afterwards, to be used for another event. I may be wrong on this, but I believe the same rink has been used for every Winter Classic. Not sure if they bought it specifically for this use only, or if they rent it from someone and it’s put to other uses for the rest of the year, or what. Haven’t cared enough to look into it THAT far…

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    • StickToBaseball says:

      And as others have pointed out, in previous years they also had college, women’s college, and high school games, as well as public skating sessions on the rink. Not sure what all else they’re doing in Pittsburgh this year, but they did have a Pittsburgh/Washington “alumni” game this morning — so even for the short time that the rink is up, it’s not just for one sole purpose…

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jordan says:

        there was a college game, a minor league game, a high school game, and a pair of peewee games at hines field in addition to the alumni game and winter classic itself.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  54. SeanL says:

    I’m going to bet that I’m the first one posting here that actually went to the Winter Classic this year. I logged on to read analysis about the O’s signing Derek Lee, and stumbled upon this “gem” of an article. Oh man…

    I’d be more worried about the waste that occurs from the festivities surrounding the Classic than the event itself. The fireworks, the “plaza” filled with vendors outside, the thousands of tailgaiters, the decor around the ice rink, how much they had to feed Jerome Bettis, etc.

    But none of these things are really unique to the Winter Classic. You’ll find the same things going on at state fairs, conventions, concerts/festivals, NFL games, MLB playoff games, and all sorts of other events.

    What a ridiculous article bashing an incredibly fun event. It was an experience for a lifetime, and I’m lucky to have attended. And I can’t wait to do it again when it comes to Washington DC in a few years.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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