Over the past eight seasons, the NHL has held their outdoor games in MLB parks, NFL stadiums and on college football fields. But with three outdoor games this season and another four potentially in the works for 2016-17, the league could be looking for something to spice the outdoor game up and a unique venue could be in the works.
According to Spencer Callaghan, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday that the league has had officials come to the city to look at the feasibility of putting an outdoor game on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Watson said there’s the ability to put up 30,000 temporary seats on the ground.
It wouldn’t be a game lacking history, either, as Watson added that commissioner Gary Bettman is mindful of the significance of 2017 being the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game between the Canadiens and Senators. That game, the second of the season for both teams in the inaugural NHL campaign, was played on Dec. 30, 1916. For that reason, it would seem likely any outdoor game in Ottawa would pit the Senators against the Canadiens.
If Ottawa were to host an outdoor game on Parliament Hill, it would be the first time since the first Winter Classic that a game has been held in a non-traditional sporting venue. However, it wouldn’t be the first time in modern league history a game was held outdoors in a unique venue. Prior to the 1991-92 season, the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers took part in an outdoor exhibition at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Temporary outdoor seating was put up, and the game was attended by more than 13,000 fans.
There has yet to be an official announcement on locations for outdoor games in 2016-17, but the reported venues for games next season are Winnipeg, Toronto, St. Louis and either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. If all four rumored games take place, it’d be hard to imagine the league awarding a fifth game to Ottawa for the 2016-17 campaign, but there’s little doubt Senators and Canadiens fans could fill the stands.
Should Ottawa host an outdoor game — and the rumored games for 2016-17 go through — Montreal will be the only Canadian team to not host such a game. Edmonton was the first team to do so in 2003 with the Heritage Classic, and they have been subsequently followed by Calgary in 2011, Vancouver in 2014 and, reportedly, Winnipeg in 2016 and Toronto in 2017. While maybe not the host, every Canadian team, except for the Jets, has taken part in at least one outdoor game.