Outdoor hockey. There is nothing like it. The NHL understands the charm and admiration that their fans and players have for playing in an outdoor hockey game. This is proven with the annual Winter Classic and Stadium Series games that a handful of lucky teams get selected for. For the New Jersey Devils, they will be lacing up their skates outdoors for the second time in their history at the NHL’s 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series.
On Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, the Devils and Philadelphia Flyers will play at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets. The stadium is one of the largest in the NFL and holds around 82,500 people. That is approximately four times the capacity of Prudential Center and Wells Fargo Center. The Devils and Flyers are not the only teams that will be skating at MetLife that weekend. The New York Islanders and New York Rangers will play the following day. Although around seven months away, fans of the teams can look forward to the build-up and hype that surrounds an NHL outdoor game.
Following Previous Stadium Series Patterns
The most recent Stadium Series game was played at Carter-Finley Stadium, home of the NC State Wolfpack. The Carolina Hurricanes hosted the Washington Capitals in 2023. The event was the 17th highest-attended hockey game with a crowd of 56,961. The upcoming games at MetLife Stadium will have the potential to slot in at a top-five position if the games are sold out. Despite the only confirmed details of the event, there has been a re-occurring pattern for each Stadium Series game for many years now.
The NHL’s official statement suggested that the Devils were chosen to play in their second Stadium Series game because they are an exciting team that is turning the corner. NHL Executive Vice President of Events, Dean Matsuzaki, mentioned why the Devils were selected, “Let’s talk about the Devils, We do track teams that are having a certain level of success… Sometimes timing is such that when a team is on the rise we want to showcase them. We’ve been watching how New Jersey is playing and how they have great young players. This will be quite the showcase for them. The time was right.” The Devils’ first appearance in a Stadium Series game was in 2014, the inaugural year of the event. In that game, they played the Rangers at Yankee Stadium in front of a crowd of 50,105 people. Ten years later, it will be the Battle of the Turnpikes.
In every Stadium Series game, all of the teams who played wore uniforms that were designed specifically for that game. In 2014, the Devils played in their throwback green and red jerseys that fans often see at least once a year in a specific game. Unfortunately, it will be a few months before they see what the expected uniforms will look like for all four of the teams playing in the outdoor event.
Another tradition that is a part of the event is live performances from artists who are well-known in the respective area. Previous performers include Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt, and Andy Grammer. There is a countless amount of potential New Jersey artists that can headline the event. A few names that come to mind that would be sure to get the crowd singing along are Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and the Jonas Brothers. All of these New Jersey artists have performed at Prudential Center multiple times.
February in New Jersey will allow for ideal conditions for the ice at MetLife, barring any random 60-degree days that happen in the Garden State from time to time. Furthermore, a time for the event will be announced soon, but the NHL should look to avoid a time when the sun is still shining. This is because the shadows on the ice could make the conditions more difficult for the players and especially the goaltenders. Most recently, an outdoor game at Lake Tahoe was delayed for eight hours due to poor weather conditions.
The team full of young players such as Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Dawson Mercer, Luke Hughes, and so on, will experience an outdoor NHL game for the first time. Five players on the 2022-23 roster have participated in an NHL outdoor game: Ryan Graves, Erik Haula, Ondrej Palat, Brendan Smith, and Tomas Tatar. Of those five players, only Palat and Smith are signed to the team for the upcoming season.
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Along with the unpredictable ice conditions, players have to dress heavier than they normally do. Winter temperatures in cold areas could play a part in the preparation and fitness of the players. Staying warm on the benches, catching your breath in frigid temperatures, and impacts from pucks and bodies in cold temperatures could be harsher. For the fans, it will be a long day that includes tailgating and battling to stay warm in the stands. However, everyone involved understands the uniqueness and privilege it is to play in an outdoor game for the greatest hockey league in the world.
Devils vs Flyers Matchup
Contrary to the Devils’ sudden success, the Flyers are in the midst of a rebuild. John Tortorella‘s squad finished 26th in the league with a record of 31-38-13 in the 2022-23 season. Lindy Ruff‘s team generated the greatest Devils’ season of all time with a record of 52-22-8. Of course, there is a whole offseason where both teams will be making changes to their rosters. However, the two teams are in extremely different stages of their contention status.
During the season, the two teams split the season series with each winning two games. The most recent meeting was on Feb. 25, 2023, and the Devils dominated in a 7-0 victory at home. The Devils faithful will already be familiar with the Meadowlands Area as it was the team’s home for 26 years before moving to Newark in 2007. Either way, a quick trip up I-95 North will ensure that there is a healthy mix of red and orange in the stands of MetLife Stadium.
Fans awaiting tickets to the event can sign up for updates on the “events” page on the NHL’s website. Black and Red members will have a priority window for purchasing tickets that will be announced at a later date. The countdown is on, New Jersey!