The NHL will play its first out of doors recreation in North Carolina on Saturday evening because the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals will face off in Raleigh within the 2023 version of the league’s Stadium Series.
With the NHL taking an out of doors recreation to a brand new locale, that acquired us fascinated by the place the league may play extra Winter Classic or Stadium Series video games sooner or later. Even although the league has been doing this usually since 2008, there’s nonetheless a variety of untapped potential.
There are a number of groups which have but to play in an out of doors recreation, however that may very well be simply solved by enjoying video games in some enjoyable and iconic places. On prime of that, the NHL may begin tapping into extra school soccer markets to create some distinctive neutral-site matchups.
Here is the place the NHL ought to go for future out of doors video games:
Raymond James Stadium | Tampa, Florida
The matchup: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers
The elevator pitch for this recreation is as follows: It’s a hockey recreation. In Florida. In a stadium with a pirate ship.
This recreation virtually sells itself. The Panthers have but to play in an out of doors recreation, and their rivalry with the Lightning is changing into probably the greatest within the NHL. The league must strike whereas the iron is scorching and each these groups are related on a nationwide degree.
Will there be issues about protecting high quality ice within the Florida local weather? Sure, however the NHL has already performed out of doors video games in Los Angeles and Santa Clara, Calif. Those locations aren’t precisely identified for sweater climate. It would take around-the-clock effort from the ice crew and a disgustingly excessive electrical invoice, however the NHL may discover a option to make it work. Besides, everybody within the NHL media will likely be searching for an excuse to get someplace heat in January or February.
Lambeau Field | Green Bay, Wisconsin
The matchup: Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Considering what number of of America’s iconic stadiums have hosted out of doors video games, it’s a little shocking that Lambeau Field has but to be featured. It’s a central location for 2 nice hockey markets, and followers from Chicago and Minnesota can have the prospect to see their group win in Green Bay.
If there’s a draw back to this recreation, it’ll in all probability be Blackhawks fatigue. Chicago has already been featured in six out of doors video games, and the franchise is simply beginning its rebuild in earnest. The Wild simply performed within the 2022 Winter Classic, however that was solely their second look.
Ultimately, I feel the chance to drop the puck at Lambeau outweighs what could be seen as a pedestrian matchup.
Neyland Stadium | Knoxville, Tennessee
The matchup: Nashville Predators vs. Carolina Hurricanes
As the NHL begins to expire of NFL and MLB stadiums to go to, school soccer stadiums can present a brand new frontier.
Thus far, six school soccer stadiums have been used as a location for an NHL out of doors recreation: Huntington Bank Stadium (Minnesota), Michigan Stadium, Notre Dame Stadium, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Falcon Stadium (Air Force) and Carter-Finley Stadium (NC State). There are nonetheless so many school soccer cathedrals that the NHL has at its disposal, and Neyland Stadium is certainly one of them.
The Predators did simply host the 2022 Stadium Series in Nashville, and the Hurricanes are internet hosting the occasion this yr, so the league could wait some time to function these two groups. When it does, Knoxville could be a perfect location to highlight a few non-traditional markets. It is lower than three hours down I-40 from Nashville and fewer than six hours down I-40 from Raleigh.
In the sake of full disclosure, this can be a homer decide from a University of Tennessee alumnus, nevertheless it may very well be a cool option to develop the sport. Featuring the Predators and Hurricanes at a impartial website would give folks in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina the prospect to see NHL motion in a beautiful setting.
Ohio Stadium | Columbus, Ohio
The matchup: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Speaking of legendary school soccer stadiums, the Columbus Blue Jackets have but to play in an out of doors recreation, and so they have one proper of their yard.
I perceive that the Blue Jackets will not be the largest draw for a nationwide viewers, however these Stadium Series video games ought to be much less about TV rankings and extra about giving followers an entertaining and distinctive in-person expertise. Columbus followers have not had that chance, however the NHL can change that by visiting the house of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Penguins could be a pure match for this recreation as a result of Columbus is just about three hours away, and it will be a battle of Metropolitan Division foes. Pittsburgh has performed in six out of doors video games already, however I doubt anybody would complain about watching Sidney Crosby and Johnny Gaudreau go head-to-head at The Horseshoe.
Chase Field | Phoenix, Arizona
The matchup: Arizona Coyotes vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Let’s maintain the small-market love rolling by giving an out of doors recreation to the Coyotes, and make it a desert rivalry recreation towards the Golden Knights.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is intent on protecting the Coyotes in Arizona, and enjoying a Stadium Series recreation in Phoenix could be a option to construct some enthusiasm among the many native fan base.
Aside from the advantages of making some hockey buzz in a smaller market, Arizona is simply one of the vital beautiful states in America. Just think about the solar happening over the retractable roof at Chase Field because the Coyotes step out of the dugout of their kachina jerseys. Outdoor video games do not get way more aesthetically pleasing than that.
Don’t fear in regards to the ice both. It’s a dry warmth.
LaVell Edwards Stadium | Provo, Utah
The matchup: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche
For those that will not be as aware of school soccer, Lavell Edwards Stadium on BYU’s campus gives probably the greatest backdrops in your complete sport. With the Rocky Mountains throughout the stadium, the largest drawback could be protecting everybody’s eyes on the ice.
Aside from the attractive setting, this location would give the NHL the prospect to function two of the most effective groups within the Western Conference: the Avalanche and the Golden Knights. The greatest hurdle for this recreation could be the truth that it’s a first rate journey from each Denver and Las Vegas, however possibly they may play a pair of out of doors video games to offer the followers their cash’s value.
If Provo is just too far out of the best way for the NHL’s liking, I will even settle for this matchup at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.
Autzen Stadium | Eugene, Oregon
The matchup: Seattle Kraken vs. San Jose Sharks
Here is one other incredible school soccer location. The residence of the Oregon Ducks is a wholesome drive from Seattle and San Jose however is a central location alongside I-5.
The Kraken are already getting a Winter Classic recreation at T-Mobile Park subsequent season, however the NHL could as nicely maintain including pleasure for its latest enlargement franchise. As has been mentioned with another neutral-site places, enjoying a recreation in Eugene would give hockey followers in Oregon a uncommon alternative to observe an NHL recreation stay. As I mentioned above in regards to the recreation in Provo, this may very well be a two-game sequence between the Kraken and Sharks.
In addition to enjoying a recreation in a unique market, these groups have two of the most effective names within the NHL. Sports throughout the board want extra aquatic predators as mascots.
MetLife Stadium | East Rutherford, New Jersey
The matchup: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders
The matchup: New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers
The matchup: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils
Playing a recreation within the Newark space is not precisely off the overwhelmed path, however we may make it a little bit extra attention-grabbing by letting all three groups from the New York space play each other.
The Rangers, Islanders and Devils may maintain their very own little in-season sequence in entrance of 82,5000 folks. The group that ends the sequence with probably the most factors may get some form of shiny Big Apple trophy or a golden Statue of Liberty or one thing. That’s extra for the NHL’s advertising division to determine.
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