It's New Year's Day, which means another NHL Winter Classic on our hands. This year's installment of the NHL's annual outdoor game on the first day of the calendar year was held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and featured the Stars and Predators. As always, there was plenty of fanfare prior to the opening puck drop, but the game brought plenty of entertainment as well.
Ultimately, the hometown fans got to leave happy. After falling into an early 2-0 hole against Nashville, the Stars successfully ripped off four unanswered goals -- three of them coming in the third period -- to mount a dramatic comeback win in the open air.
Here are a handful of takeaways from the event:
1. As always, it's about the spectacle
Typically the least interesting part of any Winter Classic is the game itself. The event is more about the spectacle surrounding the outdoor game and the visuals that it brings. And while outdoor games aren't quite the rarity that they once were, the gimmick hasn't yet worn off and the spectacle is still very much something to behold -- even in a non-traditional hockey market like Dallas.
Outside the Cotton Bowl, the pregame festivities featured Texas State Fair games and attractions. Players leaned into the country western matchup, with Stars players wearing some cowboy-inspired threads to the stadium. Predators players honored Johnny Cash by dressing in all black as they showed up.
Inside the stadium, there were plenty of horses and fireworks (two things that don't particularly mix very well) and constant sights and sounds to take in throughout the day.
2. It was one of the most entertaining Winter Classic games in some time
I know I just said the game is typically the least interesting part of the Winter Classic, but not this year. The ice looked to be in pretty good shape (always important to providing something worth watching) and the game was quite enthralling from the very start. It was evident that both teams don't particularly like each other much, which probably carries over from last spring's playoff matchup, and the Stars and Predators weren't afraid to play a chippy and physical game while also delivering some exciting end-to-end action.
There were nice goals. There were great saves. There were big hits. There was nastiness. There was drama on the scoreboard, and an emphatic comeback from the hometown team. It was a game that even a casual fan without a dog in the fight could watch and enjoy, and that's about all you can ask for when putting on an event like this.
3. Corey Perry and Ryan Ellis had the worst experience
Players that get to participate in the Winter Classic usually relish the opportunity and circle it on their calendar even before the season starts. It's a cool opportunity for guys to experience something that they may never get to partake in again. It's typically something they like to savor.
Unfortunately for Corey Perry and Ryan Ellis, they didn't have much time to enjoy it on Wednesday. That's because an ugly, bad hit Perry delivered to Ellis' head ended both of their days just a few minutes into the first period. Perry was ejected from the game just 38 seconds into his first shift, and Ellis suffered an "upper-body injury" that took him out of the game.
It's likely that the hit may have further ramifications and missed action as well -- Perry could be suspended and Ellis may have to sit while he recovers -- but I'm sure that both players will be seriously bummed that they barely got to take part in Wednesday's spectacle.
4. Dallas was a great host
Winter Classics often feature storied teams with plenty of history and tradition (think "Original Six" in a major traditional market) but the NHL decided to switch it up this year, and it had some great results. While Dallas isn't often thought of as a major hockey market, the Cotton Bowl was a cool venue for the event and the weather cooperated for some quality play on the ice.
We'll have to wait and see what the game's ratings look like, but the turnout in Dallas was pretty tremendous. The attendance was announced as 85,630 -- the second-largest in event history -- and featured solid representation from both fan bases. They were loud, they were rowdy and they were fun. I'd say that's a success but I'm not much of a businessman.
5. There was miscellaneous fun, too
Yes, the game was quite enjoyable and the sights and sounds were great, but there was also quite a lot of random fun stacked on top of that. From intermission pig races -- yes, I said INTERMISSION PIG RACES -- to Corey Perry's extremely long walk of shame back to the locker room, to Pierre McGuire sensually eating a corn dog on national television, there was plenty of fun to go around even away from the ice.