The NHL is treating its fans to six outdoor games this season, but don’t expect that number to be the norm going forward.
League COO John Collins spoke to reporters on Friday in Los Angeles, where the 2014 Stadium Series will begin Saturday night with the Anaheim Ducks and L.A. Kings continuing their rivalry at Dodger Stadium.
Despite the success of the league’s outdoor events, there won’t be six of them next season.
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The Stadium Series will continue with three more games after Saturday. Yankee Stadium will host the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils on Jan. 26, as well as the Rangers and New York Islanders on Jan. 29. The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1.
The Heritage Classic will return for the first time since 2011 when the Vancouver Canucks welcome the Ottawa Senators to BC Place.
After the lockout shortened last year’s schedule to only 48 games and prevented the 2013 Winter Classic from taking place, scheduling a bunch of outdoor games was a good way for the league to make more money and gets fans excited about the sport again. But even though these outdoor games are popular and have a positive economic impact on the teams and communities involved, scheduling too much of them waters down the experience and makes each event less special than the last.
We should expect the league to still plan multiple outdoor games for the 2014-15 season, especially since so many franchises haven’t participated in one yet. The success the NHL has enjoyed in staging outdoor games in warmer climates could also increase the chances of teams such as the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Phoenix Coyotes expressing interest in hosting.
The league has not announced any of the sites for next year’s outdoor games, but it’s been reported that the 2015 Winter Classic will be hosted by the Washington Capitals.