And again, no disrespect to Hawthorne's whole neo-soul aesthetic, but didn't Michigan once serve as a nexus for R&B and soul? Wasn't there a little label called Motown that could have provided any number of luminaries for this gig?

Let's talk about the national anthems for a second. Canada sent down The Tenors, refined vocalists with the chops to pull off an impressive bilingual version of O, Canada.

So who does the NHL send as the nation's representatives for The Star-Spangled Banner? The Zac Brown Band.

Listen, the Zac Brown Band does jammy vacation country about as well as anyone this side of Jimmy Buffett/Kenny Chesney, but the mere presence of "Band" in the name should have made organizers think twice. Forcing a band to put down its instruments and perform a cappella when The Tenors have just left the stage is a tall order.

Brown and Co. performed admirably, but we're still wondering what they were doing there in the first place.

Even the commercials come up short. Enterprise Rent-A-Car seemed to be the only company giving it much of a try, but even it recycled Rusted Root's Send Me on My Way for a spot similar to those it has aired during the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs over the last few years.

Beyond the NHL and Verizon's (VZ) #FOMOH commercials for its GameCenter streaming service,there wasn't much tucked amid the game's myriad commercial breaks to keep viewers from popping in on bowl games or just about anything else.

The game deserves better, especially this year. With the Heritage Classic serving as Canada's premier outdoor NHL event, the Winter Classic is the biggest U.S. audience the league and hockey itself can hope for.

The NHL knows this and, as was the case during the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston's Fenway Park, it used the event as an opportunity to introduce the members of the U.S. men's and women's Olympic hockey teams.

In NHL terms, this is no small deal. Back in 2010, the average of 27.6 million U.S. viewers who watched the men's hockey gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada was a bigger audience than baseball's World Series had drawn since 2004.

It was more watched than any NBA Finals or NCAA Men's Final Four game since 1998. It was an NFL big-game audience with a ratings share that ranked behind only the Super Bowl and college football's championship game that year.

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