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Penguins-Caps Winter Classic Kills it With Monster Ratings

It’s pretty safe to say that the Winter Classic NHL games on New Year’s Day are here to stay. Four of the five most-watched NHL regular season games since 1975 are Winter Classic games, with this year’s Penguins-Caps game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh checking in at number one.

The New Year’s Day game won by the Caps 3-1 over the Penguins had 4.5 million viewers on TV in addition to the more than 60,000 fans in attendance. The 4.5 million viewers figure translates to a 2.3 national rating using the funky gorilla math they employ. And get this, in Pittsburgh, the game received a 32 rating — much higher than the 7.6 rating in Washington, D.C.

The strong ratings for the Winter Classic are in conjunction with the TV numbers from NBC and Versus in the playoffs last year, proving that the interest in the NHL is rebuilding. One has to figure the four-part series on HBO only helped boost fan interest and awareness in the game, resulting in the higher ratings. If the NHL is wise, they will follow the same formula to lead up to the game each year.

If you recall, the ratings for the Christmas day NBA games also did extremely strong numbers, and the ratings for the college football bowl games were also up compared to last year through the first few weeks. It appears as if people are just watching more TV, watching more sports, or both.

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Scott Gomez Funny Interview with Elliotte Friedman, Calls Him the Grinch (Video)

Scott Gomez is a center for the Montreal Canadiens and he used to be a lot cooler until he was traded to the Habs. Now he’s just another punk who wears the blue and red, but I digress. The man has been known to be a jokester during interviews (see here and here), and he was up to his usual tricks on Thursday night. Interviewed by Elliotte Friedman of NHL Network prior to the Habs-Bruins game, Gomez was his typical wacky self. Check out this funny interview::

Gomez turned around with a smile after the interview, so it was clear he was just joking around like usual. Imagine that, he asked Santa for a better shot. By that logic, maybe I should ask for a 95 mile per hour fastball huh? Gomez actually had two assists in Montreal’s win over Boston and the only thing that eased the pain of a defeat to the hated Habs was this interview. At least he has that going for him.

1,100 Quebec Fans Will Travel 550 Miles to Show NHL They Want a Team

There are currently NHL teams in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa.  Quebec is feeling a little left out, and they’re not afraid to show it.  According to the NY Times, roughly 1,100 die-hard Canadians from Quebec have chartered 22 buses to Long Island for Saturday Night’s New York Islanders-Atlanta Thrashers game.  Are they hockey fans?  Absolutely.  But this is more of a business trip.

The Islanders and Thrashers are having serious attendance problems, and the Canadian fans are making an attempt to show NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that they could do better.  Simply put, they want their own team.

Photo Credit: Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press

Vincent Cauchon, a radio sports show host and the organizer of the trip, said he chose the Nassau Coliseum because he and his crew noticed there was no one at the games when they watched the Islanders on TV.  However, the goal is not to convince the NHL to move the Islanders.  They respect the Islanders as one of the NHL’s most storied franchises and would rather the Thrashers be moved to Quebec.

“We have a lot of respect for the New York Islanders and what they accomplished in the past — the N.H.L. needs the Islanders,” Cauchon said. “But it would be great, awesome, if the Thrashers moved. Atlanta is a great sports city, but it’s not a hockey town. We’re not going to New York to tell the N.H.L. they didn’t do a good job going to Atlanta. We’re going there to tell them in Quebec it would work.”

Whether or not the movement works remains to be seen, but you have to respect the commitment.  Not to mention, it’s probably not a bad idea.  People in Canada love their hockey and the Thrashers are 28th in the NHL despite a winning record.  Something’s got to give.

113,411 on Hand for The Big Chill at the Big House in Michigan

113,411 were in attendance at the Big House to watch Michigan beat Michigan State 5-0, setting a world record for most people in attendance for an ice hockey game. The weather actually cooperated nicely as temperatures were in the high 30s and there was no precipitation.

Like any great major sporting event, the game between Michigan and Michigan State was billed with a fantastic name: The Big Chill. Michigan is now 10-5-4 with the win while the Spartans fall to 6-9-3 with the loss. The Frozen Four is still several months away, but this was one awesome way to get the season going.

If you weren’t watching Army-Navy on CBS, hopefully you caught a glimpse of The Big Chill on Big Ten Network because it’s something we don’t get treated to too often.

For more pics, check out this photo gallery

Photo Credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images

Hilary Duff Sends Naked Pics to Pittsburgh Penguin Mike Comrie

Actress/singer/large-toothed person Hilary Duff admits that she frequently sends naked cell phone snaps to her NHL husband, Pittsburgh Penguin forward Mike Comrie.

“Oh boy I’m going to get in trouble… I send [nude] pictures but never with my face in them,” Duff admits. “Gotta keep it fun, gotta keep it interesting. He knows better than to show his hockey buddies or forward them. We are married you know.”

I hate to burst her bubble, but if she keeps her face out of the picture, then Mike is DEFINITELY going to be showing his teammates because they won’t know it’s her.

Wait, but then they might think he’s cheating—and professional athletes never do that. I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. My bad.

HILARY DUFF PICTURES

Brett Sutter Had Classic Mug Shot After Punching Cabbie in the Face

Forget retro jerseys or composite sticks—punching cab drivers seems to be the hottest trend amongst the NHL’s young stars. Last summer, we heard about Chicago Blackhawks phenom/Twi-hard Patrick Kane’s infamous freak out when a Buffalo cab driver failed to produce a whopping 20 cents in change.

Now it seems that Calgary Flames forward Brett Sutter—son of Darryl Sutter, the team’s general manager—opened up a can of dorky Canadian whoop ass on an unlucky cabbie outside a bar in Scottsdale, Arizona, punching him in the face.

Less than pleased with the prodigal son’s behavior, the Flames (who have the creepiest fans on earth) busted him down to their minor league affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat. But the 23-year-old sniper didn’t languish long in AHL purgatory; on Wednesday, the team did away with him altogether, trading him to the Carolina Hurricanes.

I don’t know which is more offensive–slugging some poor immigrant driving your taxi…or doing it with that creepy “To Catch A Predator” mustache. Chilling.

Justin Bieber Dreamed of Playing Hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Hockey is already the red-headed step child of the sports world, and something tells me that an endorsement from Justin Bieber isn’t going to help.

The Beebs says that if he wasn’t titillating tweens around the world with his barely-tolerable musical stylings, he’d be…playing pro hockey?

“Singing is my first passion, but if things didn’t work out, I would be trying to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Bieber said confidently. “I’m sure I could teach them a thing or two with my mad skills!”

Despite his pee wee league experience (check out his player card), he obviously didn’t get the memo that flatironing your hair isn’t considered a “mad skill” valued by the NHL. Although, picturing Milan Lucic or Matt Cooke dropping the gloves against Justin Bieber makes us absolutely giddy with bloodlust. Better keep JB away from Sean Avery though…they might trade fashion tips.