Since its introduction in 2008, the Winter Classic has been one of the premier events of the NHL season. It has been known to draw interest from all different fan bases, not just fans of the two teams competing. Before this year, the only other outdoor NHL games were the 2003 and 2011 Heritage Classic games, which are basically the Canadian version of the Winter Classic. (This year's Heritage Classic will feature the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators)
Seeing the huge success the Winter Classic game has become, the NHL set out to capitalize on the popularity of outdoor hockey and thus, the NHL Stadium Series was born.
Premiering this year, the NHL Stadium Series will feature four outdoor games starting at the end of January. The games are as follows:
January 25th, Anaheim Ducks vs. LA Kings at Dodger Stadium
January 26th, New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium
January 29th, New York Islanders vs. New York rangers at Yankee Stadium
March 1st, Pittsburg Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field
While its hard to argue that the playing an NHL game on an ice rink in the middle of a football or baseball field is a cool idea, at what point does having multiple outdoor games a year become too much of a good thing?
The biggest draw of the Winter Classic, and the reason it garners such widespread interest, is the fact that it has been the one and only outdoor game of the season. With only one game, the NHL was able to pick a great matchup to feature. The novelty of the event was what made it special. The Winter Classic has now become one of five outdoor games.
Is it just me, or does having four other outdoor games cheapen the Winter Classic a bit? Sure, the Classic’s matchup of the Redwings v. Leafs is arguably the best of all the outdoor games this year. And yeah, it has New Year’s Day going for it too, but still, it’s now one of five.
It’s cool multiple fan bases now have the opportunity to experience their team play an outdoor game, I just think it makes the honor of hosting or playing in the Winter Classic a little less special.
As far as the matchups to be featured in the Stadium Series go, Penguins vs. Blackhawks and Ducks vs. Kings should both be good games based on the fact that all four teams are among the leagues best; there’s just not much history behind either of those matchups.
On the other hand, I’m unimpressed with the two matchups that will be played at Yankee Stadium. Aside from the fact that it seems like a waste to have the Rangers play in half of the Stadium Series games, the matchups are underwhelming to say the least. Between games against the Devils and Islanders, I can’t decide which I’m less interested in.
The NHL will undoubtedly make tons of money from these additional outdoor games. All the games will sell out and fans will pack the stands, excited for the unique experience of witnessing their team play on a rink standing in the middle of an open-air stadium. But what happens when this uniqueness fades? What happens when the novelty of an outdoor hockey game wears off? What if the outdoor hockey game becomes commonplace rather than an exciting, once a year event?
I guess we’ll see.