The bottom line, which seems to be being missed by nearly everyone, is that Buffalo sold all 42,000 available tickets in 25 minutes. That figure doesn't even include the 30,000 tickets reserved for Sabres season ticket holders. This is incredible display by the most rabid NHL fan base in the United States. For a league that takes more than it's fair share of flak, this is a fantastic way to show the NHL is not nearly as dead as advertised. Given the right market, the right amount of exposure, and competent marketing, the NHL is capable of hosting a successful event on a very busy sports day (traditionally dominated by college football) because they have the most passionate group of fans in professional sports.
The national ratings will be poor. I'd be highly surprised if it even cracks a 2.0. Don't be fooled by the ratings though, this level of interest is a great sign for hockey.
The NHL released the following statement:
Demonstrating once again that our fans are the most passionate in sports, more than 42,000 tickets to the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic were sold in the first 30 minutes of availability this morning. Due to the overwhelming demand, plus our commitment to Sabres and Penguins season ticket holders, the Buffalo Bills and sponsors of the event, we are currently sold out. If additional tickets become available, we'll release the information at a later date.