2008 Winter classic: Pittsburgh vs Buffalo
With temperatures just about at the zero mark, we doubt anyone was really surprised when thick, fat flakes began to fall on the 2008 Winter Classic game on New Year’s Day in Orchard Park, New York.
The Pittsburgh Penguins faced off against the Buffalo Sabres on snow-covered ice that didn’t exactly make for the most elegant hockey in history.
Organizers had to bring out the Zamboni in each of the three periods, and play had to be stopped for ice repairs quite often.
The game itself saw regular time end in a 1-1 draw, forcing an climactic overtime shootout even as the snow was still coming down, with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby knocking in the last goal to win the shootout for Pittsburgh 2-1.
It was enough for the fans – all 71,000 of them who showed up, breaking the then-record for attendance at an NHL game.
2011 Heritage Classic: Calgary vs. Montreal
This being Canada, we doubt anyone seriously doubted the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic was in any danger of being cancelled due to the terrifyingly cold temperatures in the lead-up.
Still, the unexpectedly cold caused more than a few headaches for organizers prepping the rink. At one point, it was so cold, cracks were detected in the ice, due to brittleness caused by overnight lows down to -25C.
On game day, the temperatures were a little more reasonable, but gradually plunged to -9C as the evening wore in, with stiff winds making it feel almost as cold as -20.
Didn’t stop the 40,000 fans from showing up to watch the Calgary Flames take on the Montreal Canadiens at home-turf McMahon stadium, but the players can’t have been too happy.
Players huddled by the heaters, donned extra layers and ear muffs to cope with the icy winds, and slapped on some eye-black to lessen the setting sun’s glare on the ice, while the fans kept warm however they could.
Officials couldn’t even bring out ice-cleaning machines, fearing they would be too heavy for the brittle ice, opting instead to hand-spray the surface and use shovels instead.
In the end, Calgary routed Montreal 4-0, in what Flames fans, at least, reckon was a darn good Heritage Classic.
2013 SnowClasico: U.S.A. vs. Costa Rica
All the training in the world wouldn’t have prepared Costa Rica’s finest for the conditions waiting them when they met the USA on March 22, 2013, for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Colorado.
The teams clashed on a pitch that rapidly became snow-covered during a storm that dumped as much as two inches.
Field workers shoveled out the lines, and plowed the pitch at half time, but Costa Rica demanded the match be called off due to the appalling conditions. Officials refused, and the United States squeaked in a 1-0 win.
Costa Rica was furious and appealed the result. The appeal was denied, and the resentment over that resulted in, ah, quite the ordeal for the U.S. team when they went to Costa Rica for another qualifier in September.
The whole thing was a gauntlet. The team bus was egged, they had trouble finding a practice venue, authorities pointedly declined to help them in the most basic ways, like providing soccer balls to practice with.
It must have felt like some kind of vindication for Costa Rica when they finally met the U.S. team again, winning 3-1 and ending the visitors’ 12-game winning streak.
In the end, both teams qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and made it to the finals. The United States lost to Belgium in the Round of 16, while Costa Rica fell to the Dutch in the quarter finals.