The NHL continues to bask in the success of its Winter Classic Stadium Series. Conversely, the NFL continues to debate the merits of an outdoor, cold weather Super Bowl. So could there ever possibly be an outdoor Stanley Cup Final and would it work?
As we saw at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, an outdoor game can be played smoothly in a warm, if not mild climate. If anything, it may be even more conducive to such a spectacle. I say that because when you’re playing a game in 62 degree weather, that’s right in the ballpark (pun intended) of where most climate controlled NHL arenas are at. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that given the technology readily available, that most of the naysayers were proven wrong that the league could pull it off.
Of course one caveat in all of this might be a hot and humid locale like Miami, Florida. Another fly in the ointment could be those conditions in late May or early June. Although, heck, we’ve already played Stanley Cup Final games in warm weather buildings, with Miami, Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Carolina. So really, it isn’t all that ridiculous when considering the climate and the condition of the ice surface.
If you’re wondering what that precipitation on the ice is, it may just be the collective drooling of NHL executives, at the prospect of what such a series could do to fill the coffers. The whole stadium series stands to make the league billions and if you don’t believe me, check the TV ratings, ticket prices, merchandise sales and attendance numbers. Honestly, when you’re throwing those numbers and that kind of money around, nothing is impossible.
Just think about how wild it would’ve been to have had the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field? Even if you’re worried about the conflicting regular season MLB schedule, there’s always football stadiums available nearby.
Now, we all know about about the potential financial windfall but is it practical from a playing standpoint?
Well, yes and no. What do I mean by that? The setting and stage of an outdoor Stanley Cup Final would be pretty wild. A larger than life crowd going crazy and even more fans drawn in by the spectacle on TV. Then again, those fans are at a distance and not on top of the action and hence, some of the intimacy and intensity impact is potentially lost. I know the counter argument to that is that most of these modern buildings and arenas have become “sterilized,” with some diehards being priced out but you still have fans up close, banging on the glass and making their presence known. Perhaps there would be some makeshift seats or bleachers set up if something like this were attempted in the future.
As for the ice itself, I mentioned above how there have been Stanley Cup Final games played in warm weather cities in May and June but are you going to sacrifice the playing conditions for the most important games of the season? I suppose one could apply the same argument for a regular season contest.
While it may be interesting and lucrative to see how an outdoor Stanley Cup Final would work, ultimately there are way too many variables for games of such importance. Teams trying to get mentally locked in for the intensity of a playoff game, can’t afford to have delays, either before or during the games. Plus, one could also make the argument that playing pivotal games in a climate which effects the way the puck handles and the way players skate, does too much to trivialize games played at that level. In other words, it probably isn’t a good idea to have slush, bumps and holes in the ice for a Stanley Cup Final. Again, not to knock the games and events that have succeeded for the most part but it may be just too much for the grand stage of the Stanley Cup Final.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.