The concept for the NHL's Winter Classic began in 2004 with NBC Sports VP Jon Miller who pitched the idea nearly four years before the first game in 2008. The first Winter Classic was held in Orchard Park, New York at Ralph Wilson Stadium between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. Prior to the 2008 Winter Classic only three other NHL games had been recorded as being played outdoors. One of these games being the Winter Classic's Canadian counterpart, the Heritage Classic in 2003. Since the first Heritage Classic it has become a tradition to wear retro-style throwback sweaters in each of the Winter Classic games.
The Winter Classic game proved to be a huge success as far as ratings go. After the first Winter Classic in 2008 each game after has gained an increase in attendance. The second Winter Classic in 2009 between Detroit and Chicago reached the highest American television ratings of any hockey game in over 30 years and thus leading to the annual scheduling of the NHL Winter Classic.
2014 NHL Winter Classic Preview
The 2014 Winter Classic will be one of six outdoor NHL games of the year and will pit the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Both teams found themselves with an early exit in the 2013 NHL Playoffs and will be looking to kick off the New Year with a win on January 1, 2014. The Toronto Maple Leafs will be the first Canadian team to be featured in the Winter Classic as it has only scheduled American teams in it's first five years as a game.