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Buffalo fans are stars of documentary about first Winter Classic

Like the game that it commemorates, the documentary about the original Winter Classic in Buffalo is filled with chills, highlights and compelling story lines. Also like the game, it has Three Stars.

The Third Star of NHL Network's "The First NHL Winter Classic, Hockey Goes Outside" is Sidney Crosby. The Pittsburgh captain used the 2008 outdoor game against the Sabres as a springboard toward becoming a legend, and the film treats him as such.

The fans in Buffalo are the Second Star. The roar inside the Bills' stadium and the festival in the parking lot are captured well. The passion of Western New York sports fans is praised and revered.

As anyone who attended the game can attest, the weather was the First Star. It was a New Year's Day celebration held inside a snow globe, and the flakes created picturesque scenes, unexpected drama and a lasting impression.

Viewers can see for themselves soon. "The First NHL Winter Classic, Hockey Goes Outside" will have a special screening at 6 p.m. Tuesday in (716) Food and Sport. The documentary will air nationwide at 8 p.m. Wednesday on NHL Network.

(A clip is available here.)

Plenty is packed into the 50 minutes of running time. Narrated by actor Michael Keaton, the documentary tracks the game from its creation to the building of the outdoor rink to the game-ending shootout and beyond.

"There was no denying the Winter Classic had the feel of a real event, the likes of which the sports world had never quite seen," Keaton says.

The NHL Network original film commemorates the 10-year anniversary of the game, and it digs deep:

* NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and executives from NBC Sports discuss how changes in college football bowl games allowed them a window of opportunity.

* Dan Craig, the NHL's vice president of facilities and operations, details the problems encountered in building the rink with a limited amount of time in less-than-ideal conditions.

* The cameras catch the ball-hockey games, bonfires and tailgating out in a true winter wonderland.

"There's loads of people already there, and we're there hours and hours before the broadcast," NBC announcer Darren Pang recalls. "I'm thinking to myself, 'This is really, really neat.'"

* Players such as Ryan Miller, Brian Campbell, Jason Pominville and the witty Colby Armstrong provide an in-depth look at the game itself, commenting on the action as they watch a replay of it.

* Announcers Bob Costas, Mike "Doc" Emrick, Rob Ray and Pang give their views along with reporters from Pittsburgh and Buffalo, including The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington.

* Cameras and microphones go inside the locker rooms, giving a behind-the-scenes look at pep talks and postgame hot chocolates.

"Everything kind of worked in our favor that day between the weather, the great crowd, the competitive game, having this young superstar really get to show his stuff at crunch time," says Jon Miller, NBC Sports' president of programming. "It was the perfect experience for us."

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