(Ty Conklin, sadly absent from an outdoor NHL game for the first time ever)

Dan Shaughnessy’s SI.com love letter to the Winter Classic – it’s so upbeat, he says the NHL is “Number Four!” – is a nice thing for the game of hockey, but he stumbles just a bit along the way:

Hockey owns New Year’s Day the way baseball owns the Fourth of July and football owns Thanksgiving. Sure, there’s still plenty of college grid action on the first day of the year, but many big bowls have been pushed back in the name of ratings and rankings. The NHL has stepped in with the Winter Classic which will be held this year at Fenway Park, featuring the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers…

Seizing the (New Year’s) Day, league czars took the game to Wrigley Field last year and the 2009 Classic produced the NHL’s highest regular season television rating in 13 years. Now the torch has been passed to Fenway Park and the Bruins of Original Six lore. Boston is positively agog at the sight of a Zamboni parked in front of the Green Monster. I kid you not.

The average high temperature in Boston on January 1 is 38 degrees, but nobody seems to be worried about the cold.

Surely Boston sports fans don’t consider such a temperature to be “cold.” In fact, as Fanhouse’s Chris Botta reports, it may even be hot enough to get the game postponed.

Like most of the East, Massachusetts had unseasonably warm weather the last two days. On Monday, the rains came. NHL ice man Dan Craig said his weather forecasters initially told him to expect a 50 percent chance of snow on New Year’s Day. Now their projections have changed to rain….

The decision to play the 1 PM ET game on Friday between Boston and Philadelphia comes down to two factors, according to Craig. “Our focus is on player safety and fan safety.”

I’d like to say I’m looking forward to the game, but with both my alma mater and my lifelong favorite team in bowls until 4:30, I probably won’t be making time for the pathetic Flyers in what’s really just another conference game. As an event, the Winter Classic’s surely cooler than an NFL contest in London, but it doesn’t count for extra in the standings.

Which is not to say the morning football action is of major consequence, but hey, it isn’t every decade that Northwestern plays on New Year’s Day (or every century that they win a bowl). And Penn State’s still looking for its first win over a BCS Top 15 opponent (which at least gives them something in common with the University of Texas).