The game was born outside. When the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins took to the man-made ice surface that was constructed at Ralph Wilson Stadium, it returned. In 2008, the National Hockey League held its first ever Winter Classic. 71,217 congregated in Orchard Park, New York on that frigid, New Year’s Day to watch the teams compete in a snowy ambiance.
The Winter Classic was a big hit, to say the least. Since the debut of what is now the league’s most-watched regular season contest, the league has gone on to hold four more. Cities to host the event include Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, and most recently, Philadelphia.
This upcoming season, Michigan Stadium will host the sixth Winter Classic. The game, which was originally scheduled for 2013, was cancelled due to the lockout. Featured in this event will be two Original Six rivals: the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Now, in order to take advantage of the overwhelming success of this outdoor game, the league announced the “2014 NHL Stadium Series”.
There will be a total of six outdoor games played during the 2013-14 season, including the 2014 Winter Classic and Heritage Classic. The historic Yankee Stadium will host two of these games. Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (yes, you read that correctly) and Soldier Field in Chicago will hold one game each.
2014 NHL Stadium Series Schedule
|January 25, 2013||Dodger Stadium||Los Angeles Kings||Anaheim Ducks|
|January 26, 2013||Yankee Stadium||New Jersey Devils||New York Rangers|
|January 29, 2013||Yankee Stadium||New York Islanders||New York Rangers|
|March 1, 2013||Soldier Field||Chicago Blackhawks||Pittsburgh Penguins|
Will the addition of four more outdoor games be detrimental to the success that the league has experienced from these events? Or, will the increase of outdoor games prove to be beneficial? Let’s take a look at both sides.
- More Opportunities: Having just one outdoor game each season makes
it difficult for fans to view the spectacle firsthand. Tickets are limited and prices are through the roof. The 2014 NHL Stadium Series provides hockey fans with four additional opportunities to attend an outdoor game at a more reasonable price. Attending an outdoor game is an amazing experience and a must-do for any hockey fan.
- Continued Growth of Hockey: Hockey has grown tremendously in the United States. Attending an outdoor, professional hockey game is an extremely unique experience. Fans of all sports will be intrigued to watch a hockey game at their hometown ballpark or stadium. The implementation of the Stadium Series allows fans throughout the country to have the experience. Who would’ve thought that Dodger Stadium would host a hockey game?
- Increased Exposure: The big-market teams of the National Hockey League have always been showcased in the Winter Classic. What about a smaller-market team like the New York Islanders? The 2014 Stadium Series provides those teams with more exposure. Playing in an outdoor game is a big deal. The Islanders are coming off of a great season. By participating in an outdoor game, that franchise will receive more national recognition than they have in the past. Also, a game at Dodger Stadium will promote the continued growth of hockey in California and the success that the Kings and Ducks have both had.
- Stealing the Spotlight: Since its debut in 2008, the Winter Classic has always been one of the most anticipated events of the season. Will the increased number of outdoor games have a negative effect on the usual buzz surrounding the Winter Classic? In years past, there has only been one outdoor game played in the United States. All of the excitement is built up around a single game. That is a large part of what has made the Winter Classic what is it today. I think that its unfair to say that the anticipation of the Winter Classic will be the same with four more outdoor games on the schedule.
- Overkill: Another contributing factor to the popularity of outdoor games
was that there was only one each season. Hockey’s annual return to it’s natural setting has filled outdoor venues to capacity since 2008. Now, Gary Bettman has added four more outdoor games to the schedule. Although the commissioner doesn’t believe that it is an overkill, many fans do. Holding one outdoor game each season has kept hockey fans satisfied and eager for next year. Having six outdoor games in a single season will undoubtedly change the way that fans perceive them. What once was viewed as an extraordinary event will eventually become nothing more than another game, especially if the league continues this series into the future.
- Money, Money, Money: Gary Bettman claims to be giving the fans what they want. However, it is clear that satisfying the fans isn’t the driving force behind the implementation of more outdoor games. So, why add four more outdoor games, you may ask? The answer is simple: money. Remember that lockout that canceled almost half of the 2012-13 season? Well, the league was losing between $18-20 million each day without hockey. The addition of four more outdoor games should cover the cost. So why put the significance of a special event such as the Winter Classic at stake? For a couple of extra bucks, is the answer. Making more money than Shea Weber and Rick Nash just isn’t good enough for Commissioner Bettman.
Both sides of the argument have been presented. Now, its your chance to vote and have your voice heard. Are you a supporter of the of the 2014 Stadium Series? Or, do you think it would’ve been best for the National Hockey League to stick to just one outdoor game? Vote on the poll below and be sure to leave a comment.