The NHL officially announced in a press conference on Monday that the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will be participating in the 2012 Winter Classic held at the Phillies' home, Citizens Bank Park. Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards were the players in attendance for the Rangers.
This announcement comes as no surprise, as there were rumors back in June that the fifth year of the outdoor Classic would be between these two bitter rivals. Then members of each side confirmed, the logo was leaked (made official on Citizen Bank's scoreboard on Sept. 22 when the Phillies played the Nationals), and the promo was revealed (shown below) with both teams teased. The Rangers play in Philadelphia tonight.
"The Rangers organization is honored and excited to take part in what has become one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said as quoted by Jesse Spector of the NY Daily News.
Now each team gets its television fix, as HBO's 24/7 series will document the weeks leading up the the Jan. 2 event, following the Rangers and Flyers from inside the locker room to to the action on the ice. Why is it being held Jan. 2 and not Jan. 1, like it normally is? New Year's falls on NFL Sunday, so the NHL did the smart thing and pushed the game back a day.
Beyond the game on the ice, the 24/7 series figures to be a big hit between two bitter area rivals, a slew of captivating personalities and an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes of hockey teams. Between Jaromir Jagr, Chris Pronger, Sean Avery, John Tortorella and Henrik Lundqvist ... plus a number of youngsters on each side who could "steal the show," the four-week series beginning on Dec. 14 will be must-see TV.
The Blueshirts have a number of things flying at them early this season. Madison Square Garden is undergoing renovation and the team won't play in it until Thursday, Oct. 27 (seven games on the road). They will play four preseason games in Europe, then two regular season ones and have a week off to adjust to the United States once they return. To cap it off, New York will play in the Winter Classic, which means the HBO cameras will be on them from now until then. But Tortorella doesn't want any excuses.
"Let's not kid ourselves; we'll be bouncing around Europe in the pre-season and opening regular season games before we return to The Garden. Then there's the Winter Classic which will demand a lot of attention. With all those things going on, we're going to have to keep our focus and improve each and every day."
All the early-season traveling will galvanize a close-knit group even further. The only question is how such a young team deals with all the potential distractions.