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February 23, 2013 | 5:39pm ET [Updated: 11:57pm ET]
NHL considering multiple outdoors games in 2014
 Expect more than one outdoor game next season, multiple sources tell TFP.

TORONTO, ON -- Since the lockout ended and the 2012-13 season (as it's officially being called) got underway, we have seen fans (for the most part) run back to the game with open arms.

As frustrated and pissed off as everyone associated with the game was, the return of the NHL season set initial attendance records in certain markets and all the merchandise, tickets and concession discounts teams have offered have not gone to waste.

Factor in Chicago setting a new NHL record for going 14-0-3 to start the season, Anaheim surprising everyone with their brilliant play, Nashville remaining in contention without Shea Weber's defensive BFF, and the Montreal Canadiens somehow off to a great start, and many around the game are smiling.

But that doesn't mean everyone is smiling.

The lockout caused hundreds of millions in losses -- losses nobody expected to incur (geniuses). And with players heading to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, something that will be officially finalized in the near future, the loss of another All-Star Game hurts league revenues (sure, the NHL and NHLPA are fighting for a piece of the Olympic revenue pie, but it's not enough), and a two-week hiatus in the middle of the season isn't ideal.

So, what to do? How will the NHL recoup some of its losses by methods that do not include relocation and expansion? (Depending on what happens in Phoenix the 'R' word could become very real this summer, while the 'E' word is still a few years away)

The 2014 Winter Classic (oh yeah, cancelling the 2013 one was another major kick to the moneymaker) between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings should set new revenue records in both ticket sales and merchandise sales, and while that's going to be a significant boost, that should have already happened.

If only there was another way to generate a similar amount of cash in the same season...

Oh, wait. Maybe there is.

After doing some digging, TFP Senior Writer Dennis Bernstein and I stumbled across some interesting information.

According to multiple well-placed sources, the NHL is planning on having not one, but several additional outdoor games in 2014, a series of outdoor games, if you will, which will begin with the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Where will these games take place, you ask?

Well, the NHL is currently trying to fit an outdoor game inside Yankee Stadium in New York City, something they've been attempting to orchestrate for several years.

Another possible venue?

How about Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Granted, other cities/venues are being considered, as mentioned, but both New York City and Los Angeles, and their respective MLB stadiums, have already been discussed.

New York makes sense, geographically and climatically, but I'm sure many will question LA. For the record, I'm all for it. An outdoor game has been staged in Las Vegas, and the outdoor ice rink they have right across the street from Staples Center is impressive.

The NHL might not want to explore more than two outdoor games, in addition to the Winter Classic -- and I'd be surprised if there are more than two in 2014, the League might be better served easing into this -- but they are considering all of their options, including alternative dates and times.

There has also been talk about staging a game in each of the seven Canadian NHL markets, Minnesota, Denver and Washington -- Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Boston and Chicago, all of whom have already hosted a Winter Classic, are also options for future games.

It's unclear when the NHL will finalize its plans, though it sounds like both New York and Los Angeles are near-locks. I'd love to see a few outdoor games each year, but you've got to wonder if the hype of the Winter Classic will be lost if this becomes an annual occurrence.

The revenue possibilities are significant, and a major reason as to why the NHL is exploring multiple outdoor games next season.

Whether they turn this into an annual series is an entirely different question they need to figure out, but all signs point to two additional outdoor games next season.

Update: A few hours after this story was released, we had been informed that the NHL is also in discussions to bring back to Heritage Classic. According to TFP's Dennis Bernstein, it could take place in either Vancouver or Edmonton.

I wasn't the best at math in school, but that would mean there is a possibility of four outdoor games for the 2013-14 season: the Winter Classic, the Heritage Classic, an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium and an outdoor game at Dodger Stadium.

There is still plenty of time to change things around, but the NHL seems poised on expanding its outdoor activity next season.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.
 

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