PITTSBURGH - So much of the Jan. 1 NHL Winter Classic was great.
There was a positive economic impact from the outdoor game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field.
n Every hotel room within 10 miles of the North Side was booked, and a lot of those guests ate in restaurants that would have otherwise been closed on New Year's Day.
n People bought merchandise, helping local retailers in a week that would have been limited to post-Christmas clearances.
n The NHL got its biggest regular season TV rating in the U.S. since 1975.
n The game sold 68,111 tickets, and local governments collected revenue on each of them.
In fact, there was only one negative about the Winter Classic: It was lousy hockey.
What should have been a great match-up between outstanding teams and two of the game's biggest stars was instead a water-logged mess.
Having Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin play under those conditions was like having the world's greatest pianist play while wearing mittens.
Warmer than normal temperatures and rain made puddles, which meant that skating, passing and every other skill were compromised.
The NHL loves the Winter Classic because it draws viewers who don't usually watch hockey.
Expose them to the NHL with a special event, and maybe they'll like the sample enough to buy the product.
The problem is an outdoor game isn't close to what the NHL offers under normal circumstances.
Capitals vs. Penguins at Consol Energy Center wouldn't have been a spectacle that showcased the skyline, but it would have been great hockey.
Nobody in the Penguins locker room would go on the record with the truth because they know the NHL doesn't want discouraging words about the Classic, and any complaints might be perceived as excuse-making for the Penguins' 3-1 loss.
But some players were willing to privately admit that the conditions reduced the quality of play to something usually presented by the Wheeling Nailers.
Besides, complaining won't change anything. NHL commissioner Gary (Shootout) Bettman has little knowledge of hockey and no perceptible respect for the game.
He wants to make NBC happy, and even that is relative. The 4.6 million viewers for the Winter Classic were great for hockey, but mediocre in the real world of televised sports.
The lackluster Fiesta Bowl (Connecticut vs. Oklahoma) drew 10.8 million viewers to ESPN opposite the Classic.
Five nights earlier, a hastily re-scheduled Tuesday night NFL game between Minnesota and Philadelphia brought 23.7 million viewers to NBC.
Meanwhile, Bettman's NHL has come up with something innovative in the Winter Classic: The hockey game for people who don't like hockey.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org