ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski posted an Insider-only article which ranks the 14 Winter Classics based upon their “venue, hype and style,” and the 2014 Winter Classic comes out on top:
1. 2014: Michigan Stadium, Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Detroit Red Wings 2 (37 points)
This was a special kind of cold. The seat cushions handed to the 105,491 hockey fans at the Big House — an NHL record — could barely protect their posteriors from the numbing metal benches. The balls inside the linesmen’s whistles froze in place during the game. Snow fell, winds whipped. It was truly hockey vs. the elements that day in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
All of it helped create a legendary environment for the outdoor game. So did the split loyalties in the crowd, which was dotted with blue Maple Leafs jerseys and contrasting with Red Wings jerseys. On the ice, the teams’ throwback jerseys — both wore full-color uniforms — were among the best looking in the event’s history.
Impossible as it might seem, the game was actually good! Jonathan Bernier saw 43 Red Wings shots sail his way, and Detroit needed a late third-period goal to force overtime. Toronto won in a shootout on a Tyler Bozak tally, sending tens of thousands back over the border happy.
An entertaining game, in many ways, is the cherry on top for a Winter Classic. There are other aspects more central to the event’s success. Like having a compelling matchup, challenging winter conditions and a memorable venue with a personality of its own. But a great Winter Classic should also be a celebration of hockey: To that end, the Leafs and Wings played an alumni game doubleheader at Comerica Park in Detroit because they had so many darn great players who wanted in, and so many fans who wanted to watch them.
The Winter Classic at the Big House satisfied all these obligations. Which is why it’s the classic among Classics.