Minnesota is getting an outdoor game, says commissioner Gary Bettman, but there’s still plenty of cities we’d love to see host the NHL. These are the top 10 locations we would love to see host one of the league’s signature contests.
Earlier this week, commissioner Gary Bettman said that an outdoor game is on its way to Minnesota. The ‘State of Hockey’ is well deserving of the attraction, but there are other cities that should be on the NHL’s radar. In recent years, we’ve seen games in Chicago, Vancouver, New York, Detroit, and even Los Angeles. There will be outdoor tilts in Washington and San Jose this season, and Winnipeg is coming up in 2016. But who has been left out and which cities would we like to see get a chance at hosting a Stadium Series or Winter Classic?
10. Tampa Bay, Raymond James Stadium One of the most important things when considering where these games would be played is the venue, and few have a more intriguing place to play than Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The issues are certainly there – would the building get filled, weather could ruin the game, would anyone really care about it – but this is the kind of game that would be perfect for an all Floridian matchup and the stellar Lightning would be a great host for an outdoor game. It has been proven that warm weather climates can work for the game, but the only reason this game might not be a hit is because you can never be sure if fans would fill out a 65,000 seat stadium in Florida.
9. Ottawa, TD Place Stadium The lowest Canadian city on this list – you can probably guess the other two that are further down – the reason Ottawa comes in so low is because the venue isn’t near big enough for the celebration. For an event that can easily sell 50,000 seats, especially in Canada, TD Place Stadium falls well short at a capacity of less than half of that number. It might not seem like 24,000 is anything to shake a stick at, but consider that some NHL teams come close to hosting that on a normal night and it doesn’t sound like it’s the biggest and best event the league has to offer anymore. Add in that the Senators have had trouble at times selling out the Canadian Tire Centre, and the prospect of putting a game in Ottawa gets that much trickier.
8. Arizona, University of Phoenix Stadium First of all, it’s right near the Gila River Arena, so it’s not a far trot from the usual distance Coyotes fans go to watch their team play. Again, attendance might be an issue, but the idea would be the same: make sure the Coyotes play a team that is a sure draw. Fans would flock to Arizona to watch the game, a sure-fire spectacle, and then get to take off to hit the links once it was all wrapped up. The Winter Classic generally takes place on New Year’s Day, so what’s the issue with trying to capture the imaginations of some hockey-loving travellers and the snowbirds that leave as soon as the weather starts to flip in the north? Previously the host to the Super Bowl and 2011 NCAA college football championship game, imagine if somehow the NHL could break the attendance record? That would be a nice bit of press.
7. Columbus, Ohio Stadium What you’re probably thinking is this: there’s no way in the world that Columbus could sell out a stadium that has a capacity of over 100,000. To which I would say: are you sure? If the game features a good enough team – say the league pits the reigning Stanley Cup champions against the Blue Jackets – there’s always the possibility the building gets packed. It’s an outside shot, sure, but sometimes you need to go for broke, and the NHL could definitely try a game at The Shoe. As an added bonus, wouldn’t it be incredible to see Columbus score a goal and a line of cannons, say six or seven, go off? That would be one of the best moments in outdoor hockey history.
6. St. Louis, Busch Stadium If for nothing other than the backdrop of the Gateway Arch, St. Louis would make a fantastic host to an outdoor game. Love them or loath them, the MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals have a rich history, and placing a game at the home of one of baseball’s most successful franchises would make for an incredible event. If the Blues continue to make strides toward the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, it would be an even better time to put the team at the ballpark and see if the event isn’t a home run. (Sorry.) With a capacity of over 45,000, it’s the perfect size for an outdoor game, too: not big enough that selling it out is a worry, not so small that it doesn’t seem like a grandiose feat. This might be as close to a lock as there is on the list.
5. Nashville, LP Field More than any other games on the NHL schedule, the outdoor contests are a celebration and, whether you’d admit it or not, a cause for partying. Name one other city that would be more fun to party in for one big game than Nashville? Done trying? Good. There’s a reason that you see a litany of players describing the city as Nash Vegas. With great food, great music, and a great city as the surrounding, Nashville would be one of the most memorable hosts for any of those heading to the outdoor festivities. With the way the Predators are playing, you shouldn’t be too surprised if this happens sooner rather than later. And, if it does happen while the Predators are this hot, you can imagine filling the 69,000 seat LP Field would make for one heck of an atmosphere.
4. Las Vegas, Sam Boyd Stadium From Nash Vegas to Las Vegas, having an outdoor game at Sam Boyd Stadium would prove only to light another spark around the conversation about expansion. It’s hard to tell what the over/under is on this actually taking place, but it’s a safe bet that it would be a good way for the NHL to test the waters on whether or not they could get fan interest in Vegas. The city has hosted the NHL Awards, has the attractions to draw people in for the game and more, and the event would most certainly be able to sell out the 40,000-seat building, even if that means there are a few hotel comps. Las Vegas seems more and more likely as an NHL city, and if they’re going to make a serious push at is, you can rest assured that the league would probably put their full weight behind an outdoor game.
3. Montreal, Olympic Stadium Technically, this wouldn’t be an “outdoor” game. But in the sense that the Vancouver Canucks hosted a Heritage Classic, it could be considered one. Can you imagine the amazing support the fans in Montreal would throw behind something like a signature NHL game? This is the type of thing fans of the Canadiens live for. The celebration, the ceremony, the alumni that would be at the game – there’s far more positives than there could ever be negatives when it comes to Montreal hosting an outdoor contest. If a team ever lands in Quebec City, there’s almost no question that the NHL should scrap whatever plans they may have had and make it the outdoor game for that season. Regardless of the score, sparking a rivalry between the two Quebec teams would be a moneymaking machine for the league. And did we mention the potential ceremonies?
2. Toronto, Rogers Centre This is under one condition: the roof has to be open. Unlike Olympic Stadium, which hasn’t opened its retractable roof since the early 1990s, the Rogers Centre opens and closes like it’s going out of style. And if part of having a retractable roof is to enjoy the elements of the sport on the days when it’s perfect weather for a game, then having the roof open is the only way to go in Toronto. BMO Field, where Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC plays, is getting an expansion, but with a current capacity of fewer than 22,000 it’s not a viable option for the game. The upcoming expansion will only increase the seating by 8,000, which is still too small for what the demand would be for the event in Toronto. If you need to wait for a lifetime to get seats to a Maple Leafs game, how quickly do you think tickets would last for an outdoor game? Not very long. The Rogers Centre, on the other hand, can seat up to 54,000 people. That’s more in line with what the event is used to hosting. If you throw some seating down on the field, maybe a few VIP sections, you could easily bump it up to 55-56,000, and that would be a pretty hearty showing for an outdoor game.
1. Hartford, Rentschler Field A game in Hartford, with Carolina wearing Whalers throwbacks, would be the most universally aesthetically pleasing game that has maybe ever happened in the NHL. To this day, you still see the Whalers logo held up as one of the greatest. Not just hockey history, either, but in the entire world of sports. Rentschler Field has a record attendance of 42,704. Not for a second should you believe that would stand a chance against the rush of fans that would flock to an outdoor game in Hartford. Pit the Bruins against the ‘Canes and let the two teams go at it for old time’s sake. This all sounds like a bit of a pipe dream, especially as you can be sure the Hurricanes wouldn’t want to leave Carolina for a game of this magnitude, but we can always hope the NHL might step in and make it happen. As doubtful as it seems, it’s enough to bring a smile to your face just thinking about. One day, maybe. And if that day comes, my, what a glorious day it will be.