NHL considering multiple outdoors games
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
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.