Sunday, April 21, 2013

Some Future Outdoor NHL Games We Want to See

Last week, reports broke that the NHL plans to add five more outdoor games to the 2013-14 schedule that take place in Chicago, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and two games in New York. With this decision and the past success of the Winter Classic, one could assume that more open-air NHL games are to come in the near future. Here's a few matchups off the top of my head that I would love to see played.

Detroit vs. Columbus
Ohio Stadium
Opened: 1922
Capacity: 102,329
Columbus is one of the league's most promising up-and-coming teams. With superstar Marian Gaborik and Vezina candidate Sergei Bobrovsky leading the way, the Blue Jackets finally look like a team on their way up. With the University of Michigan getting an outdoor game on their campus in the form of the
2014 Winter Classic, it's only fitting that Buckeye country gets a crack at hockey as well.

Detroit is only about three hours north of Columbus and is sure to draw a crowd where ever they go, making them the perfect team to help Columbus fill the Horseshoe's 102,000 seats. Columbus has been division rivals with Detroit since the team's inception in 2000 (although this will end in 2013-14 with the NHL's planned realignment) and went 4-0 against the Wings this season. If for some reason Detroit can't make the trip, the Pittsburgh Penguins would also be an ideal opponent to play Columbus in Ohio Stadium.

Dallas vs. Minnesota
Target Field
Opened: 2010
Capacity: 39,021 
If there is one city who hasn't hosted an outdoor NHL game and that deserves too, it's Minneapolis... or St. Paul.... well, you get what I mean. When you imagine what these outdoor NHL games might look like, it's hard not too include the frigid weather and hundreds of frozen lakes that Minnesota is famous for. Plain and simple: Minnesota is perfect for an outdoor hockey game.

The state of Minnesota was blessed with watching their Minnesota North Stars form 1967-1993 before owner Norm Green bought the team and moved the Stars to Dallas. Minnesota would be without an NHL team for seven seasons until the NHL announced that Minnesota was awarded an expansion team to begin play in the 2000-01 season. When the NHL first announced their planned division re-alignment starting in the 2013-14 season, the one positive many fans spotted was the possibility of a Dallas-Minnesota division rivalry. What better have to add fuel to the fire then a nationally televised outdoor hockey game?

Chicago vs. St. Louis
Busch Stadium
Opened: 2006
Capacity: 46,861
St. Louis is filled with up-and-coming talent and play very well with head coach Ken Hitchcock's team first style. Combine that with the beauty of Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch that overlooks the field (or in this case, the rink), and St. Louis has a legitimate case for an outdoor NHL game.

The Blackhawks and Blues have played in the same division since 1970, a fact that will remain true with the NHL's re-alignment. Admittedly, St. Louis isn't the biggest of hockey markets. This season, the Blues are 23rd in attendance in terms of percentage of tickets sold with 94.3%. Not to say that St. Louis can expect to play in front of a half-empty Busch Stadium, but whether or not there are 46,000 people willing to buy NHL tickets in the St. Louis area is unclear. By playing Chicago, one of America's strongest and wide-spread hockey markets, St. Louis would be sure to generate the ticket sales and attention from the media that these outdoor games require.

Montreal vs. Boston
Fenway Park
Opened: 1912
Capacity: 37,400
I'll admit it: Montreal-Boston is, without a doubt, my favorite rivalry in the NHL. Both teams have original six roots and the history that comes with them, both teams are consistently good, and, probably most importantly, both teams are great at finding reasons to hate each other. 

As any fan of both baseball and hockey like myself will attest too, there is just something that would be awesome about watching a hockey game at Fenway. If I had to choose one possible game to take place from this list, this would be it, without a doubt.

Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
Beaver Stadium
Opened: 1960
Capacity: 106,572 
Beaver Stadium, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, is the fourth largest stadium in the world in terms of capacity. State College is conveniently located almost exactly half way between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and would serve as a glorious venue to one of the league's most heated rivalry games.

Edmonton vs. Winnipeg
Investors Group Field 
Opened: June 2013
Capacity:  Approx. 40,000
Since finally witnessing the return of their beloved Jets in 2011, Winnipeg has proven themselves as one of the best hockey cities in the NHL. When the NHL announced that the Atlanta Thrashers would be moving to Winnipeg, fans all over Manitoba pulled out old Jets jerseys from the attic and lined up to purchase tickets. As thing stands now, it is believed that the Jets have already sold out every home game for the next three to five years. 

In June 2013, the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers will unveil their new venue, Investors Group Field. What better place to celebrate hockey in Winnipeg?

I debated with myself about who I would most like to see play Winnipeg in this theoretical match up, but finally decided on the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton is a young, fun-to-watch team that has the potential to have multiple superstars on their roster by the time this match up would take place (January 2015, at the earliest) and once had a bit of a rivalry with Winnipeg in the 90's before the Jets departed to Atlanta. Other viable options include the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes.

Florida vs. Tampa Bay
Local Roller Hockey Rink
Opened:  ???
Capacity: 343, including standing room only tickets
According to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, warm cities in Florida and Arizona are the only thing keeping the NHL alive and without them, markets like Toronto and Detroit would crash beneath themselves and the league would be bankrupt within a year. I say, let's take an afternoon to celebrate hockey in these great markets and expose the world to the hockey hot bed (no pun intended) that is Florida. LONG LIVE WARM WEATHER HOCKEY!!!

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