As the Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins flirt with the idea of playing some of the next NHL season in outdoor venues, it begs the question: Why can’t all teams do that?
Actually, they can.
Each NHL market has the means to host outdoor games for the upcoming 2021 campaign and since the league’s future financial stability depends on this year while having fans indoors remains questionable, hosting routine open-air games across America and Canada seems to be a rather obvious choice — not to mention the new jersey designs which could be made and sold.
While having every team’s home games outdoors would be extremely improbable for many reasons such as logistics and inclement weather, instead, focusing on a Sunday afternoon into evening game-of-the-week is the more reasonable and doable way to go.
Here’s how it should simply work: Two teams play an even home-and-away series with one another throughout however long the season will be and use the record of those games to determine who gets home-ice (technically field) advantage for the final season meeting, one which will hopefully happen in front of some raucous fans.
As for venues, hypothetically:
- Anaheim Ducks: Angels Stadium
- Arizona Coyotes: Chase Field
- Boston Bruins: Fenway Park
- Buffalo Sabres: New Era Field
- Calgary Flames: McMahon Stadium
- Carolina Hurricanes: Bank of America Stadium
- Chicago Blackhawks: Wrigley Field
- Colorado Avalanche: Coors Field
- Columbus Blue Jackets: Buckeye Stadium
- Dallas Stars: Cotton Bowl
- Detroit Red Wings: Comerica Park
- Edmonton Oilers: Commonwealth Stadium
- Florida Panthers: Hard Rock Stadium
- Los Angeles Kings: SoFi Stadium
- Minnesota Wild: TCF Bank Stadium
- Montreal Canadiens: Olympic Stadium
- Nashville Predators: Nissan Stadium
- New Jersey Devils: Metlife Stadium
- New York Islanders: Citi Field
- New York Rangers: Yankee Stadium
- Ottawa Senators: TD Place
- Philadelphia Flyers: Lincoln Financial Field
- Pittsburgh Penguins: PNC Park
- San Jose Sharks: Oracle Park
- St. Louis Blues: Busch Stadium
- Tampa Bay Lightning: Raymond James Stadium
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Rogers Centre
- Vancouver Canucks: BC Place
- Las Vegas Golden Knights: Allegiant Stadium
- Washington Capitals: Annapolis Stadium
- Winnipeg Jets: Mosaic Stadium
Now, who would play whom in that mouthful of possibilities?
These games should walk a tightrope between rivalrous, epic play and also limited travel. While it’s not a perfect science, here are some theoretical outdoor series for the 2021 NHL season.
Islanders vs Rangers
A subway series for hockey? Sign me up. Although the Rangers would technically be an away team for all these games due to some tight licensing with Madison Square Garden, alternating outdoor games between Queens and the Bronx could be a spark towards a rivalry that’s sadly gone dormant in recent seasons.
Plus, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field have both been host to outdoor games previously, so there wouldn’t be much of a learning curve.
This would also give the Islanders a shot at redemption to design a jersey which puts their rather dull reverse retro one to shame.
Bruins vs Canadiens
Some bitter, hard hitting Bruins vs. Habs action is what the NHL needs right now. Many would pay top dollar to see two of hockey’s oldest rivals go toe to toe in the first outdoor series between Canada and the U.S. since these two met up in the 2016 Winter Classic.
Even if fans can’t attend, a well-executed marketing and merchandise campaign would reel in some much-needed cash for the league here.
Boston has experience hosting Winter Classic games at the Red Sox home and it won’t be difficult to attract Montreal residents to watch hockey in the former home of the Expos, this reporter speculates.
Since Olympic Stadium is indoors, the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes home field at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium could suffice as a backup venue.
Capitals vs. Penguins
Here we go again. These two Metropolitan division squads are no stranger to an outdoor faceoff with one another and now is the perfect time to regenerate that same energy which was the 2011 Winter Classic.
The Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at Annapolis has also hosted a Stadium Series game previously and since college football’s Army vs. Navy game will be held at West Point, giving the Midshipmen a major sporting event this winter doesn’t sound like the worst idea in the world.
Since Heinz Field has already had a crack at hosting in Pittsburgh, what’s the harm in using its neighboring ball field for a change? After all, it’s been voted as one of America’s most enjoyable stadiums.
Blue Jackets vs. Sabres
Perhaps a new rivalry could come out of this one.
While neither Buffalo or Columbus have any particular malice towards one another, that might all change when fans are yelling through masks in the bitter cold inside of two massive football canyons.
If not, then at the least Ohio finally gets to show off Buckeye Stadium to the hockey world and the loyal people of Buffalo get another outdoor game.
Devils vs. Flyers
A little I-95 rivalry is perfect for these sorts of circumstances. Easy enough travel for both fan bases home and away plus the Devils and Flyers don’t exactly like one another.
So, this matchup poses good hockey with teams nearby one another – not to mention Metlife Stadium gets a crack as a hockey venue finally.
Like Pittsburgh, since Citizens Bank Park has already hosted, let’s give the Link a chance this time around.
Maple Leafs vs Senators
A battle for Ontario in the bitterest of elements between the bitterest of rivals? Um, yes.
What would make this matchup especially sweet is that neither the Sens nor Leafs have squared off against one another in the Canadian Heritage Classic outdoor game series in years past.
This certainly is the time to try it out.
Predators vs. Hurricanes
The city of Nashville is likely still buzzing from their Winter Classic against the Stars in Texas, so now is the perfect time to bring more outdoor action into the south.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have shown the league some of the franchise’s most competitive seasons recently and deserve a bigger stage to show off on.
Both Charlotte, NC, and Nashville would also have their first chances to host outdoor games as well.
Lightning vs Panthers
A little battle in the sunshine state would be the perfect return for the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
It would also give some great exposure to the Florida Panthers, a squad still looking to scratch its mark on the league.
If the Floridan climate would make outdoor games challenging in this case, then it’s going to be domed Tropicana Field and Marlins Park to the rescue!
Stars vs Blues
The energy shown in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl for the 2020 Winter Classic was an incredibly feel good moment for the sport of hockey – it’s well advised to keep that momentum going.
Also, for the passionate Saint Louis Blues fan base which is nursing a lingering championship hangover, an outdoor game would snap them out of 2019.
Hawks vs Wings
A rivalry as old as time and two teams who’ve faced off outdoors against one another over a decade ago.
Detroit’s Comerica Park has hosted collegiate hockey many times in years past and deserves a shot at a pro game while the classic Wrigley Field would be ideal for a return from Blackhawks.
To have fun with this one, the final game played between the Red Wings and Hawks could be held at either Notre Dame or Michigan Stadium, two icons that have hosted their own Winter Classics already.
Jets vs Wild
Cross the border to get this fun rivalry between Minnesota and Manitoba.
Both the Jets and Wild have played host to outdoor games and have fan bases that are not only accustomed to the cold but also how to be the seventh man in hockey.
Using the University of Minnesota and also the host field of a Heritage Classic game seems to be the sensible way to go here.
Avalanche vs. Coyotes
This one would be the rockies vs. the desert and also a great way to put a boost into the Arizona fanbase.
Using Chase Field would combat Phoenix’s climate while also showing the versatile use of the massive stadium – just freeze the pool and use it as a mini rink in the background.
One also wonders how the puck will travel in high altitude Coors Field, if it’s anything like a baseball then slapshots will be especially fun to watch.
Ducks vs Kings
This So-Cal rivalry provides the NHL and NFL a chance to show off the brand new SoFi Stadium in a new dimension.
It could also be the main event in Anaheim this winter with Disneyland temporarily closed.
Having these two geographic rivals face off with one another would also do wonders for the sport in an environment not so known for hockey.
Even if SoFi wasn’t to host, there’s the LA Coliseum, Rose Bowl and Dodger Stadium as viable backups in LA.
Oilers vs. Flames
The battle for Alberta is on as it’s ever been as both Edmonton and Calgary continue vying for a championship in the modern day.
Like the Leafs and Sens, neither team has matched up in a Heritage Classic and could make for one heck of an outdoor series up north.
Knights vs. Sharks + Vancouver Canucks
A little three-way series between these foes out west is a chance to introduce some outdoor action into Seattle as well as to show off the Las Vegas Raiders’ new Death Star-esque home venue.
Each team could host a home game and all eventually play a neutral site affair in Seattle in the 2021 season.
Not the worst way to jump start Seattle’s hype for the incoming Kracken.