You may have seen that the NHL announced two outdoor hockey games at Yankee Stadium next season, including the game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers scheduled for Sunday, January 26, 2014, and a game between the New York Islanders and the Rangers on Wednesday, January 29.
Way back on January 1, 2008, in an article called How Cool Was The NHL Winter Classic? on this site, I said:
I think the NHL could put on two or three of these games next season in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day as an alternative to College Football on television. I wouldn't be surprised to see games happen in places like Yankee Stadium or Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Five years ago, the Winter Classic was held at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo (Orchard Park, NY), and I thought the NHL would prefer football stadiums to baseball fields. Subsequently more baseball stadiums than football stadiums have been used.
It's interesting that the NHL decided to feature a single outdoor game for each of the first five seasons of the Winter Classic, and it's only now that they choose to expand it. The NHL is calling the U.S. outdoor games other than the Winter Classic the NHL Coors Light Stadium Series.
I still think that NHL outdoor games could be effective counter programming against college football, but the apparent rationale for the dates of the outdoor games next season is:
- The Winter Classic is always January 1, and is a signature event for the NHL. The Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
- The outdoor game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will take place on Saturday January 25 at 7:00pm Pacific Time (Los Angeles Kings versus Anaheim Ducks). You can't take the sun out of the equation in Southern California, especially since the average high temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celcius).
- The two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium are scheduled close to each other (which makes complete sense), and in the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII which is scheduled for Sunday, February 2, 2014, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
- The final outdoor game in the United States will take place during Hockey Weekend Across America, which will run from February 28 to March 1. (The Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field on Saturday, March 1.)
- The outdoor game in Canada, known as the Heritage Classic, will take place on Sunday, March 2 in Vancouver. The Canucks will be hosting the Ottawa Senators at BC Place.
It's hard to imagine a scenario where Canadian hockey fans would accept proliferation of the outdoor game schedule in the United States without at least one game being in Canada. What's probably limiting such games in Canada at this point is the selection of world class outdoor stadiums. There aren't many, if you think about it.