The 2022 NHL Winter Classic was played in brutally cold conditions on New Year’s Day outdoors in Minneapolis. The St. Louis Blues defeated the Minnesota Wild 6-4 in a Minneapolis baseball stadium where the Minnesota Twins usually play. The game is one of two the NHL typically play outdoors each season, usually in baseball or football stadiums in an effort to help grow the game.
The outdoor game also serves as a tribute to “pond hockey,” given that the first games of hockey were played on frozen ponds or lakes.
For the most part, the game itself was not that memorable except for the cold conditions — the coldest NHL game on record. Temperatures when the puck dropped at 6:20 p.m. were reported around -7 degrees, with the wind chill estimated to be around -18 degrees. Temperatures and wind chills dropped a few more degrees as the game continued.
Before the game and after the game, some critics said it was too cold. According to a graphic shown during the game, the only games colder were two NFL contests — the Ice Bowl when Green Bay defeated Dallas on New Year’s Eve in 1967 in the NFL Championship, and the Freezer Bowl in 1982 when Cincinnati defeated San Diego in the AFC Championship Game. In the Green Bay game, a fan died of exposure. Players and fans were treated for frostbite in both games.
But before stating that it was too cold to play and no game is worth the risk of fans or players getting frost bite, consider that the NHL and Target Field representatives were prepared to help keep the fans, workers and teams safe. About 40,000 hand-warmers were given out, plus providing places to warm up. Soup was available at concession stands. Blankets were allowed. The penalty boxes and ice were heated.
Everyone knows that cold weather can be dangerous. We also know that most people who live in these types of environments, including Nebraska, know how to prepare and dress appropriately. Plus, these games are popular as tickets were selling from $100 to more than $1,000 on StubHub 24 hours before the game, even with the record cold forecasted.
Target Field also had radiant heat in many areas on all levels. The bars, stairwells and elevator lobbies also were heated, providing places for fans to warm up. Players also had two intermissions to warm up between periods. Some players wore balaclavas and long underwear. Almost every player in the NHL grew up in a cold-weather environment.
The bottom line is that fans like these types of games. They usually are sold out and earn high TV ratings. While we agree that caution must be taken by fans and players to be safe, as long as these types of preparations are made, let people choose if they want to attend.