The NHL Missed a Golden Opportunity with a Coyotes Stadium Series Game

The NHL has scaled back the outdoor games for the 2015-16 to three from the season high six in the 2012-13 season. However; the league missed out by not having a game in the Phoenix area during the 2014-15 season.

Over 42,000 fans packed Calgary's McMahon Stadium in frigid conditions for the 2011 Heritage Classic (Ray Wong/flickr)
Over 42,000 fans packed Calgary’s McMahon Stadium in frigid conditions for the 2011 Heritage Classic (Ray Wong/flickr)



The modern NHL outdoor game can be traced back to the 2003-04 season that featured a “Heritage Classic” game between the Montreal Canadians and Edmonton Oilers. The game set an attendance record at the time and Canadians goaltender Jose Theodore wearing a tuque over his helmet is the most memorable image. The league rolled out what has become a New Year’s tradition with the first “Winter Classic” on January 1, 2008 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres. The league continued with the Winter Classic as the only outdoor game for the following two seasons, before adding back the Heritage Classic as a second outdoor game for the 2011-12 season. The NHL greatly expanded to six games in the 2012-13 season, including the first “warm weather” game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium on January 25, 2014. The following year, the Kings beat the San Jose Sharks at Levi’s Stadium (home of the San Francisco 49ers football team) 2-1 in the only other outdoor game to feature teams from the sun belt. This year, games will be played in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado – again leaving out the warm weather teams.

A Game in Phoenix?

After the success of the Ducks/Kings game on a warmer than expected night in Los Angeles, there was a belief that an outdoor game could be had anywhere. Coyotes chairman and governor was pushing hard for a game downtown (likely at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball club). Although many would scrutinize a team with oft cited attendance woes as not deserving of an outdoor game, there would have been reasons to capitalize. Not only was Super Bowl 49 bringing visitors into the Phoenix area in droves. By scheduling a Stadium Series game on sometime on the weekend of January 30th – February 1st, 2015 the NHL and the teams could have benefited from the extra fans in town for the PGA Waste Management Open another popular fan event. And as far as keeping ice in the desert downtown Phoenix’s CityScape and CitySkate did not seem to have a problem keeping an outdoor skating rink around for most of December (below).

The Future

The NHL should look to take advantage of the clubs in non-traditional markets and. The NFL will be back in Phoenix in the near future, should the NHL and the Coyotes attempt to take the opportunity to grow their respective brands? Are the Coyotes deserving?