The Winter Classic never fails to be a success, for players, fans, and especially the league. For five years, the NHL has gone outside on New Year's Day, complete with months-long hype, 24/7 coverage, big national broadcast ratings, and a packed house, no matter how big that house is. Next year's Classic will be at the biggest of houses: Michigan Stadium. But what if you could do it more than once a year?
Outdoor games aren't about celebrating the game, or hearkening back to childhood ponds. They're about making money. According to TSN's Darren Dreger, the NHL will play six outdoor games next year, pending the finalization of contracts. The six, including the already-announced Winter Classic:
- Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings at Michigan Stadium, Jan. 1
- Ducks vs. Kings at Dodger Stadium, Jan. 25
- Devils vs. Rangers at Yankee Stadium, Jan. 26
- Islanders vs. Rangers at Yankee Stadium, Jan. 29
- Penguins vs. Blackhawks at Soldier Field, March 1
- Senators vs. Canucks at BC Place, March 2
Yes, hockey, outside, in Southern California. Hey, the league has played outside in Vegas, in the summer. And the ice won't be any worse than for any given Panthers home game.
This was inevitable, and has been a long time coming. No one ever got rich by being sparing with the crowd-pleasers. Every NHL city will be clamoring for one of these. And when the local novelty of freezing for three hours wears off? The dirty little secret of the Winter Classic has always been that's more fun to watch on TV anyway.