Riding on the success of its “Winter Classic” tradition of outdoor hockey games, the NHL has rolled out the “Stadium Series” for 2014, pitting 7 different teams (the New York Rangers will play twice) in historic outdoor venues across the United States. Here’s a look at the four different games and the impending match-ups (here you can find the full NHL schedule):
JANUARY 25th: Anaheim Ducks at Los Angeles Kings
These two California franchises will be duking it out at Dodger stadium for the first installment of the Stadium Series. These two teams are both having stellar seasons, and will likely come into this game very close in the standings. Both squads have released their distinct new jerseys for their outdoor match, and they have generally been met with good reviews. This game will likely come down to goaltending, as Jonathan Quick has been excellent this year, and the Ducks have been blessed with a full stable of good goalies, all the way down to their minor league prospects. The weather may be interesting for this one, as it rarely gets “cold” in southern California, even in January.
JANUARY 26th: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
Yes, you read that right; the Rangers will be the away team even though they will be playing in the friendly confines of historic Yankee Stadium. Their neighbors from Jersey will be playing host to the Blueshirts (who will probably be wearing white) in a highly anticipated outdoor tilt in the Empire State. Both teams are clawing their way to the top of a very winnable Metropolitan Division, and, with the halfway point of the season behind them, they’ll both be racing for the hotly contested playoff spots in the East. Once again, goaltending will be on display, with the legendary Martin Brodeur taking on “King” Henrik Lundqvist. It should be a gritty game, as these two franchises have always been rivals.
JANUARY 29th: New York Rangers at New York Islanders
The Rangers go back outside as the visiting team again, facing their cross-town foes, the New York Islanders in a subway series battle. The venue will again be Yankee stadium, and the weather has the potential to be different than the previous weekend. The northeast has experienced some interesting weather patterns this year, and it’s been predicted to be colder than usual this winter. Like the Devils the previous weekend, the Islanders share the Metro Division with the Rangers; however, the Islanders are not exactly in the playoff hunt right now. An extended losing streak has dropped them to the basement, but that does not make them any less of a competitor. Boasting one of the top young forwards in the game, John Tavares, the Isles have the capability to play spoiler in their own city.
MARCH 1st: Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks
In the final installment, Sidney Crosby & Co. head to the Windy City to take on Jonathan Toews and the reigning Stanley Cup Champs at legendary Soldier Field. The home of the Bears will be the host of two of hockey’s toughest team. An impressive stadium, Soldier Field will be packed to the brim, and just as raucous as if the Monsters of the Midway were on the gridiron. Both teams are at the top of their respective Conferences, and could easily be in the running to meet each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. A veritable All-Star Game, the NHL’s top talents like Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Kris Letang and Patrick Kane will take to the ice in Chicago in the premiere match of the Stadium Series. The notorious Chicago winter could possibly make this the harshest weather for an outdoor game to date, but it will be hot on the ice as these two showcase franchises battle it out.
Scott Huntington is a writer, reporter, blogger, and long-time hockey fan. When he’s not watching hockey he’s doing research for CJ Pony Parts or spending time outside with his family. Find him on Twitter @smhuntington