The NHL announced over the weekend that the Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the next installment of the Winter Classic. Slated for January 1, 2014, the game will be held at the Big House on the University of Michigan campus that should break the record for most spectators at a hockey game.
But that announcement wasn’t overly surprising. It was long speculated that Gary Bettman would grant the Red Wings the next possible Winter Classic after pulling the plug on this past year’s opportunity to host an outdoor game.
The surprising rumors are the ones that have picked up this morning that has the NHL exploring the notion of hosting multiple outdoor games next season.
According to Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times, there has been extended discussions about the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Anaheim Ducks at the historic Dodger Stadium. Elliott mentions January 25th as the potential date and that the game would take place at night to avoid the California sun making the ice conditions less than desirable. She also notes that a formal announcement is set for April 17 or 18.
The player’s association would have to “approve components of the plan” and Elliott reminds us that the league and the LA Dodgers would need to settle on financial boundaries.
Ok, so that’s two potential outdoor games, one in Michigan and one in California both on different dates. Then there’s a report on The Fourth Period that states the NHL along with the New York Rangers have been in contact with the owners of Yankee Stadium to rent and host an outdoor game in the Big Apple.
The talk is that the Rangers game would be the first of a day/night double header with the Kings and Ducks tilt being the night cap. it’s unclear how far the talks have progressed surrounding the possibility of using Yankee Stadium but TFP mentions the idea of hosting a “Hockey Day in America” centered around both games.
With three potential outdoor games being held acrdoss the league, surely that’s enough right? Well there is also talk of the Vancouver Canucks hosting the Canadian version of the Winter Classic, called the Heritage Classic.
The game is said to be set for sometime after the Sochi Olympics and will be held at the recently renovated BC Place. The Edmonton Oilers are said to be the front runners for the Canucks opponent. It was Edmonton who held the first ever NHL outdoor game when they hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the inaugural Heritage Classic.
Four outdoor games in one year is a little over the top, so it’s completely mind blowing to read that the NHL has explored a potential fifth outdoor game.
The Fourth Period reports that, although it’s unconfirmed, the league has been talking to the Chicago Blackhawks about their involvement in an outdoor game.
TFP does go on to mention that it’s unlcear if the Hawks would host a game, be the Rangers opponent, serve as a backup plan if the Rangers game doesn’t go through or look at giving Chicago the 2015 Winter Classic.
It’s easy to see why the NHL would look at doing more than one outdoor game this season. After losing this year’s Winter Classic along with the wildly popular HBO series 24/7 The Road to the Winter Classic, the NHL is no doubt feeling the loss of revenue but also the loss of the casual hockey fan that the television show helped attract.
But to have four, maybe five outdoor games is a little much. The traditional New Year’s Day game is a staple and should absolutely be played. The same argument could be made for the Heritage Classic in Canada; another tradition that draws a huge audience, albeit mainly hockey fans north of the border.
You could also get behind the idea of having that second outdoor game in Los Angeles, where after last year’s championship season by the Kings, the NHL was finally on the map in the sporting world. An evening game at Dodger stadium would surely drive interest in the Hollywood area and Bettman would like like a genius for going through with the plans.
But anything after that would be overkill. The NHL would be taking advantage of a unique market and fear of saturation would surely be a potential side affect.
The solution? Have teams like the Rangers and others wait their turn. Yankee Stadium would be a terrific venue for an outdoor game, granted it doesn’t have the nostalgic feel that the old Yankee Stadium did. The House that Ruth Built would have been the ideal ballpark to hold a hockey game in New York, right behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.
There is also talk that the Minnesota Wild could be front runners for the 2015 Winter Classic. Again, one a year please Mr. Bettman but because you lost this year’s version, doubling up next year would be acceptable. Anything after that and you run the risk of road kill and losing the majestic feel that the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic bring to the game.