Outdoor game leaves Beez ice cold

The Toronto Maple Leafs were out at the newly refurbished Sunnydale Acres Rink in Rexdale holding...

The Toronto Maple Leafs were out at the newly refurbished Sunnydale Acres Rink in Rexdale holding their annual outdoor practice. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:39 PM ET

Okay, the idea of a regular-season game outdoors is a great one, and the NHL should be applauded for it.

But at the same time, the NHL deep thinkers have to pull their heads out of their collective butts and do something to keep those curious Americans, who tune into the game, interested in hockey.

Here’s the deal: If you’re a casual hockey fan, or not a hockey fan at all, and you happened to catch Monday’s Winter Classic, are you going to be turned on to NHL hockey? Are you going to want to watch more NHL hockey going forward? I seriously doubt it.

Monday’s game from Citizens Bank Park was a bore (other than the last few minutes), just like the 2010 game from Fenway Park in Boston was. I’m a hockey guy and I was dozing off.

The idea of an outdoor game, with all the bells and whistles (i.e. an alumni game) is a brilliant marketing concept, a rare hit for the NHL. But the league has to do something to make the actual game more exciting if they expect to keep the Winter Classic audience interested in hockey. It seems the NHL is already starting to drop the ball, as the ratings for this year’s game were down 15% from last year’s event.

Here’s an idea. There’s a debate out there as to whether wider ice would improve the NHL game. I believe it would. Others disagree. So why not put the argument to the test? The Winter Classic is held on a temporary ice surface, so make the ice a touch bigger for the 2013 Winter Classic and see what happens.

Hey, the NHL is still trying to sell the game in the U.S. But all it is doing by presenting these snorefests is shooting itself in the foot.

RICKY ROMERO’S A REAL TORONTO GUY

I hate to sound like a complete sap, but I love the way Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero has embraced Toronto.

It’s no secret that athletes who arrive in Toronto and embrace the city (i.e. Matt Bonner, Jerome Williams) are themselves embraced by the fans in this town.

Even though he lives in his hometown Los Angeles in the off-season, Romero has taken it upon himself to become a real Toronto guy. His twitter account (RickyRo24) is full of examples of how he’s taken the city to heart. He’s become a Leafs fan and follows hockey in a big way, including the Canadian junior team, which is interesting, because the dude’s from East L.A. On Tuesday night, Romero tweeted: “Having @Logancouture & @JamieMcGinn64 over tonight for some REAL Mexican food and the Canada/Russia hockey game.” Later in the game, as Canada tried to stage a comeback, he twittered: “Is this game exciting or what!!!!! Hoping Team Canada pulls it off.”

Romero subscribes to the NHL’s Centre Ice package and has also joined up with Team Unit (#TeamUnit on Twitter), a Toronto fraternity/charity which includes Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia and Leafs centre Tyler Bozak.

After the Leafs lost in OT to the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 29, Romero tweeted: “Nooooooo!!!!! Sh*t!!!!! Wanted a shoot out and a W.” The all-star LHP attended the Leafs-Ducks game at the Honda Center on Nov. 27 and commented on all the Leafs fans in the stands and how dedicated Leafs Nation is. He even tweeted about Justin Bieber being in the Leafs dressing room recently.

Romero’s expected to attend his first Leafs game at the ACC on Saturday night and has tweeted how excited he is about it. He’s got Toronto sports fans eating out of his hand. As for Romero possibly adopting the Raptors as his new fav NBA team, it’s not going to happen. Romero’s a huge Lakers fan. He even did a spot as a guest reporter at a recent Lakers game and got head coach Mike Brown to say that his favourite Major League Baseball team is the Toronto Blue Jays.

WHILE I’M AT IT...

This is my take on the Ron Wilson contract extension: A great, big #$%^ You” from Brian Burke to all the Wilson bashers, particularly those in the media.

Is there a dumber expression than “Off the schneid?” What is that, some kind of sausage?

WEENIE OF THE WEEK

Rangers coach John Tortorella. Torts, as his buddies call him (i.e. everybody in hockey) was right on when he dumped on the refs (Ian Walsh and Denis LaRue) for doing a lousy job officiating Monday’s Winter Classic. But why did he have to apologize for his comments after? If you say something, and you’re right on, stick with it.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter@beezersun


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