Regardless, as the numbers show, jerseys have been gobbled up en masse and the teams are the better for it, their current successes overriding their earlier history of failure.
"This is like as close to the Stanley Cup as we've gotten," Boudreau said. "We're not denying that it was more than just two points. It was a fabulous game. And we came in wanting to win this thing."
"It's an amazing feeling [playing in the classic]. And I said the same thing when we played in Buffalo," [Sidney] Crosby said. "But it's pretty easy to see why you see (NFL players) so pumped up every week. Coming down the tunnel, it's a pretty amazing feeling. And playing hockey in front of that many people, it's something that probably none of us ever dreamed of doing."
No matter. While the game was hardly a showcase for the game at its top level, it was a showcase for the league, an event that proved the NHL could continue to reinvent itself on a national scale. This was all about selling hockey's atmosphere and tradition. Though the city of Pittsburgh may not see another Winter Classic for some time, it acquitted itself well on a memorably wet New Year's Day and set a strong standard for all future Winter Classics to aspire to match.