The NHL Winter Classic is an annual meeting between two teams in the NHL at an outdoor stadium in the US for a regular season game. 

Even though there are only two points on the line, the NHL Winter Classic is one of the most highly-anticipated dates on the calendar, leaning heavily into the pond hockey roots of the sport. 

This season, the NHL Winter Classic returns to Fenway Park, with the showcase event guaranteed to be a huge draw in the sport betting. Here’s what you need to know.

NHL Winter Classic History

Despite its name implying a storied hockey tradition that spans a large part of the league that’s run for over 100 years, the NHL Winter Classic is actually a relatively new addition to the calendar. 

The first NHL Winter Classic took place on January 1, 2008, establishing the event as a predominantly New Year’s Day showcase – but scheduling conflicts with college football and the NFL on Sundays does shift the date back. 

It arrived after four years of work from Jon Miller (NBC Sports Executive) to get the idea off the ground, inspired by the success of the sporadic NHL Heritage Classic in Canada.

What is the NHL Winter Classic and when is it played?

Held at the Ralph Wilson Stadium (now the Highmark Stadium) in Orchard Park, New York, the first NHL Winter Classic saw the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout before a crowd of over 71,000 fans. 

The showpiece event has been held 13 times, with the 2013 and 2021 editions being rescheduled to the following years due to the lockout and pandemic, respectively. 

NFL, college football, and MLB fields have all played host to the NHL Winter Classic, with the biggest attendance coming in 2014 when the first Canadian team travelled south for the event.

Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is a colossal sports venue, and when the Toronto Maple Leafs came to play the Detroit Red Wings, over 105,000 hockey fans witnessed the Buds win 3-2 after a shootout in the snow. 

The vast majority of NHL Winter Classic matchups are held between US-based teams and are always close to a US team’s home stadium. 

In 2023, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins will play their third and fourth games, respectively, at the NHL Winter Classic, tying the B’s with the Chicago Blackhawks for the most appearances. 

However, the Bruins boast a far better record at the NHL Winter Classic. The Beantown franchise already has a 2-1 record, while the Blackhawks have lost all four of their games at the outdoor hockey event. 

The NHL Winter Classic Returns in 2023

On Monday, January 2, 2023, the NHL Winter Classic returns to the TV and to Fenway Park, with the home team, the Boston Bruins, looking to make it two wins at the home of the Red Sox. 

Eclipsing 37,000 in capacity, Fenway Park is far from the largest outdoor stadium to host the NHL Winter Classic, but the Beantown faithful certainly knows how to make the team feel like there’s an army behind it.

To start the season, the Bruins have flown in amongst the Stanley Cup frontrunners after an emphatic 8-1 start, landing +1200 in the NHL odds to go all the way. 

At the time of writing, the Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled to string more than a brace of wins together, sliding along a four-game losing streak to start the campaign 4-4-1. 

Still, out in the elements, it’s anyone’s game at the NHL Winter Classic. History suggests that it’s a game for the road team, with nine of the 13 Winter Classics taken by the travellers.

The 2023 NHL Winter Classic will be a must-watch game for hockey fans, extending the showpiece’s legacy of putting on a grand spectacle by taking hockey back outdoors.

*Credit for all images in this article belongs to AP Photo*


FIRST PUBLISHED: 2nd November 2022

Ben is very much a sports nerd, being obsessed with statistical deep dives and the numbers behind the results and performances.

Top of the agenda are hockey, soccer, and boxing, but there's always time for the NFL, cricket, Formula One, and a bit of mixed martial arts.