With 72,000-plus fans watching on at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., the Los Angeles Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks. The game was the most meaningful in outdoor game history, making for an outstanding spectacle and a hard-fought battle in the race for the playoffs.
In order for the Stadium Series game — and the Winter Classic, for that matter — to continue to be a spectacle each year it has to be bigger, brighter, with added flair, each subsequent game outdoing the last. If that’s the goal, the 2015 Stadium Series game between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings accomplished it in a few ways. For starters, the game was the third highest attended in the NHL’s now more than half-decade long history of outdoor games. At final tally, 70,205 spectators packed Levi’s Stadium, the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, to watch the Kings win their seventh straight game as they defeated the Sharks 2-1. Aside from the gaudy attendance number, the game was also the first outdoor contest that really, truly meant something. The intrigue wasn’t simply based on the display, but also on two teams fighting each other tooth and nail for a wild-card berth. And the game itself provided some of the most incredible photos from an outdoor game we’ve seen yet.
What would a game at Levi’s Stadium be without some friendly fans tailgating? (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Sharks entered the Stadium Series game across a rope bridge, with treacherous waters below. (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
From under a Los Angeles goalie mask, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick leads the team onto the ice. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
More than 72,000 fans, the third largest crowd in NHL outdoor game history, watches the action from inside Levi’s Stadium. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Antti Niemi makes a big glove save in his old-school gear. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Quick scrambles back into his crease to keep the score locked at 1-1 in the second period. (Brian Babineau/Getty Images)
A blast from Marian Gaborik little more than four minutes into the third period eludes Niemi for the Kings’ second goal of the affair. The tally would stand as the game-winning goal. (Brian Babineau/Getty Images)