The NHL Stadium Series is both exciting and unnerving. The success of The Winter Classic has made the concept of outdoor stadium games a very special event. There is concern that now it will be too much of a good thing. Sure, the Winter Classic will still take place with the Detroit Red Wings hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs. And it will be a welcome return after it’s cancelation due to last year’s lock out. There’s even hope HBO’s 24/7 will return to follow the lead up to the event, which they did masterfully during the previous two Classics. But will the Stadium series that follows at the end of January over saturate the market? Make it less of a big deal?
Maybe, but at least for 2014, it will be a spectacle and no team stepping into the outdoor spotlight needs it more than the New York Islanders. When the announcements were made that the New York Rangers would play both the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders at Yankee Stadium, it was a big deal for the Islanders as it legitimatized their progress over the last few seasons, both in on ice talent and progress, and behind the scenes with the decision to move to Brooklyn in 2015. Had the Stadium Series been held a mere two years ago, there’s a good chance it would only have been the Devils and Rangers playing at Yankee Stadium.
While the Islanders have come a long way, there is still plenty of room to grow. At the press conference, John Tavares continued to shine as the face of the team. He expressed his and the team’s excitement to be part of such an event. He knows, as well as the fans, that this isn’t just a rivalry game verses the Rangers at a legendary stadium, it’s the proverbial spotlight. They will be given a chance to continue the head turning they did by finally making the playoffs and giving the Pittsburgh Penguins a solid challenge in the first round.
For the last two and half decades, the team has been more known for futility then the legacy it’s dynasty of the early 80′s created. A legitimate superstar like John Tavares along with a cast of talented young players sets the stage to finally pull themselves out of such negative connotations. The NHL is giving them a chance to help prove their cause by allowing them to play in Yankee Stadium. This team keeps getting better and this year, at the end of January, as the playoff race heats up, they’ll face their rivals in the great outdoors, ready to make headlines and continue to press the fact that this is a new New York Islanders team.
All that’s left now is the preperation and the hope we get some snow falling on this bitter cross town rivarly as it is finally given the stadium size stage it deserves. Besides, Rangers and Islanders fans throwing snowballs at each other in the stands is a little safer than fists and beer bottles… right?