Written by: Kyle Andrews – Staff Writing Intern (@)
The NHL is quick, exciting, and aggressive. It is a sport that was played on frozen lakes in the northern areas of the United States of America and Canada. During the 2016-17 season, these games on the northern frozen lakes have been replicated by playing hockey outdoors.
Many players look forward to one of the four outdoor games each season. First on October 25th, the Winnipeg Jets took on the Edmonton Oilers at Investment Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the Heritage Classic. Then on New Year’s Day, the Toronto Maple Leafs played against the Detroit Red Wings at BMO Field in Toronto for the Centennial Classic. This game was followed up by the Winter Classic between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. On February 25th, the Pittsburgh Penguins will compete against their cross-state rivals in the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Toronto Maple Leafs Mike Babcock has coached in three outdoor hockey games. He described his experience in Monday’s game as “awesome”.
“I hear all the time, there’s too many outdoor games. Well, ask the players, they want to be in them,” Babcock said. “They love them. They are one of the greatest gifts you can give your family. I loved the family skate. I loved the practice outside. The whole event for our team was spectacular.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was completely in awe because of the situation.
“It’s almost overwhelming to look around,” he said.
“Middle-market teams such as the Blues, based upon local economy size, have more to gain by hosting an event like this than a larger city does. The 2017 Winter Classic and the events around it will bring up to $18 million to the local economy here in St. Louis over the holiday weekend. That isn’t chump change for metro St. Louis hotels, dining establishments, and shops. Couple this with the fact that the economy in St. Louis is improving at a healthy clip, and that means that a lot of local money will be spent in the city limits.”
She would continue:
For a city like St. Louis, and a team like the Blues, the Winter Classic is more than money. There are two major league sports teams here, and both love their history. The Cardinals, with their eleven World Series championships and countless hall of famers, is one of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball. The Blues have fifty years of outstanding coaches and tremendous players who have managed to win multiple Stanley Cups… elsewhere, of course. But the players on this team are loved for more than wins. Do we laugh about how guys tend to get a championship after they leave the city? Yep. Do we love the guys who play here for their scrappiness and whatever “blue collar work ethic” is? Absolutely.
The fans also seem to be in agreement with this sentiment, as television ratings have moved up.
The 2017 Winter Classic delivered a 7.4 rating in Chicago, up 23% vs. the Blackhawks last outdoor game, in Minnesota on 2/21/16 (6.0)
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) January 3, 2017
It’s fair to say that it is entertaining for all sides involved. Fans get to watch their favorite teams play in the elements. Players get to play outside and usually in front of a larger crowd. The football, soccer, and baseball stadiums that hold the event make a great deal of money, as well as the cities in which the outdoor games are played.
I remember here in the Baltimore/Washington area, the Washington Capitals played a game at Nationals Park. The Capitals would take on the Blackhawks, where they would win 3-2. It was well-attended, it was well-received, many people raved about the views, and the sweaters that were worn were very cool.
If the NHL is reading this, please give M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore a Capitals-Flyers matchup in the future. It would be perfect for both fan bases, as Baltimore is smack dab in the middle of both Washington and Philadelphia.
Could you imagine, cities who don’t have NHL teams hosting a big matchup with teams who play nearby? Or you could have a cross-state matchup in the middle of the state. The Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins could meet up at Beaver Stadium in State College once a season or we could see Chicago take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in Lucas Oil Stadium. I’d definitely get behind that.
Outdoor hockey is an awesome endeavor by the NHL and I’m sure that we’ll see it take off even more in the upcoming years.