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Hockey Starts 2024 with a Bang: The Winter Classic

Updated: Jan 17

Courtesy of Steven Bisig- USA Today Sports

Most people ring in the New Year with fireworks and parties; however, hockey fans ring in the New Year with the Winter Classic. The Winter Classic is a regular season game that is held on New Year’s Day outdoors, often in a baseball or football stadium that is in close proximity to one of the teams playing. The Winter Classic showcases some of the best and most popular players in the National Hockey League, it is one of the most popular events amongst fans, being one of the most attended games of the season and having the highest television ratings. This year’s Winter Classic featured the two newest teams in the NHL- the Seattle Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights- the game was an exciting way to kick off 2024. 

Courtesy of Jay Caper- Democrat and Chronicle

The idea for this outdoor hockey game spawned in 2004 when then NBC Sports Executive Vice President, Jon Miller, was watching the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees. He thought it would be a fun idea to have the hockey teams in those two cities, the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers, piggy-back on the baseball teams’ rivalry. However, it took the NHL four years to get the idea approved, then to find a venue that was willing to host, and teams that were willing to play due to stadium-team agreements with the Rangers that prohibited them from playing outside of Madison Square Garden. The First Winter Classic took place on January 1, 2008, at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were led to victory by a legendary shootout goal from Sidney Crosby. Though the idea did not start out as planned, it has grown into one of the most looked-forward to events of the year.

Courtesy of Joe Nicholson- USA Today Sports

This outdoor hockey game is an unforgettable experience for both players and fans alike. There is nothing more exhilarating than a game played outdoors in the elements. The players must deal with conditions that they have not faced before, including the sun’s glare, wind, and snow. For example, at the 2014 Winter Classic Game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, it started snowing so hard that the game had to be paused so the snow could be shoveled off the ice. On the contrary, T-Mobile Park, which was where this year’s game was held, is in a place where the glare of the afternoon sun is likely to affect the players’ vision. Luckily, Mother Nature was on the side of the players this year, it was mostly cloudy, meaning everyone was able to see. 

Courtesy of

One of the exciting traditions associated with the Winter Classic is the way that teams showcase their cities’ cultures by arriving at the game in coordinated outfits. The Seattle Kraken arrived dressed in orange coveralls holding fake fish, representing the maritime culture in the Pacific Northwest. The Vegas Golden Knights arrived dressed as Elvis Presley impersonators, emphasizing the humorous and fun-loving culture in Las Vegas. 

Courtesy of NHL

Similarly, another tradition of the Winter Classic is the teams' unveiling of unique sweaters that they wear only for that game. This year the Seattle Kraken designed their jerseys as an ode to the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans, which was the first US team to win a Stanley Cup. The Vegas Golden Knights designed their jerseys based on the designs of the city itself in 1917, to represent the aura of the old western front. 

Courtesy of Joe Nicholson- USA Today Sports

This year’s game was action packed from the very beginning. Pumped by the hometown crowd, Seattle opened the scoring. Eeli Tolvanen scored the first goal with a spectacular assist from Vince Dunn. That goal became Tolvanen's tenth goal this season and Dunn became this season’s franchise leader in points. Seattle continued to gain their stride as they scored again early in the second period. Will Borgen was able to land the puck in the net with a powerful slapshot, which became his first goal of the season. Around this time, Vegas started to get into their groove offensively. However, it was not enough to score against Seattle’s Goaltender, Joey Daccord, who made 35 saves, including an impressive glove save on Vegas’s Jack Eichel at the end of the third period. Seattle’s Yanni Gourde made the score 3-0 when he stole the puck from Vegas’s Paul Cotter and out raced him and Vegas’s defense to the net to score a goal. 

Courtesy of Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

There was no better way to kick off the new year than with an outdoor hockey game, let alone a historic one. Daccord was the shining star of the game, leading the Seattle Kraken to a shutout victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, and the first shutout in Winter Classic history. By the end of the game, the sold-out crowd was chanting “Joey, Joey.” Daccord said that it was “Truly the coolest thing in the world…Something I’ll never forget, and probably one of the coolest days of my whole life.” He is certainly right. Hockey’s beloved New Year’s tradition is definitely unforgettable. 

Edited by Giana Robertaccio

Social media content created by Caroline McGuinness

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