In a perfect world, outdoor hockey would have no flaws, and we’d be seeing all 30 teams play at least one game in a baseball stadium or football field at some point.
Breaking news: this isn’t a perfect world, and outdoor hockey still has some flaws. On the other hand, its also had some eventful moments.
Outdoor hockey has grown as an event since the Winter Classic was introduced in 2008. Because of the aura of an outdoor game, many others are adding their say to the excitement that is outdoor hockey. Local hockey company StinkySocks Hockey is set to host their fourth annual "Quebec Winter Classic" which is played outdoors on the mountains of beautiful Mont Tremblant, Quebec Canada. If you follow ESPN'S John Buccigross on Twitter, you will often see him re-tweeting photos of hockey fans from around the world braving the elements to play the game they love, where it started, outdoors.
Bruins fans know this quite well when they hosted the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park. The scene of the recently retired Marco Sturm is still discussed as one of the best moments in the current era of The Hub of Hockey.
Love him or hate him, Sidney Crosby made his mark on the event when he scored the shootout winner in the very first Winter Classic, while this year’s scene in front of 100,000-plus hockey fanatics at “The Big House” is a scene that Hollywood can only dream of.
With this new presentation, the National Hockey League looked to capitalize on this phenomenon of outdoor hockey with its newly created “Stadium Series”. This immediately raised concerns from many hockey fans and pundits alike that the outdoor game on a professional level would be oversaturated. Having viewed other outdoor games in the college, minor and junior levels - both in person and as a casual observant on television - I understood those worries.
After this week’s games at Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium, its safe to say that the NHL still needs to improve on its outdoor viewing experience down the road. But, its also safe to say that these two games were pretty successful in their own right.
Sure, neither of the games were anything to write home about. But Chavez Ravine and the Bronx did provide a quality and unique viewing experience - outside of the performances by the aging KISS (who I’m sure will be setting dates for their umpteenth “Farewell Tour”), Jersey Boys and Cee-Lo Green.
With Wednesday’s Rangers-Isles game in the books, the NHL will embark on two more outdoor games in the 2013-14 season, both coming after the Olympic break. One will feature the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a prime time nationally televised regular season game - the first in league history - at Soldier Field. The other pits the Vancouver Canucks hosting the Ottawa Senators at BC Place in the “Heritage Classic.”
By the time its all said and done, the league will have seen six outdoor games. Although there will once again be multiple outdoor games, we’ll likely see fewer games being played outside during the 2014-15 season - and beyond. And we do know one thing, the Washington Capitals are set to host the 2015 Winter Classic, most likely at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals.
But the discussion on a local basis also rages on, thanks to a couple of reports from Darren Dreger of TSN and its rivals from Rogers SportsNet speculating that the B’s are one of the teams that are interested in hosting a “Stadium Series” game at Gillette Stadium.
Now the next question, if the rumors are indeed true, who should the Bruins meet on a cold winter night at a place called Patriots?
There is really only one answer for this: the Montreal Canadiens.
Make no mistake, the rivalry has already had some great moments. The legends who donned the Black and Gold and the Bleu Blanc Rouge made their mark on this historic matchup at the old Boston Garden and Montreal Forum. The current set of Bruins and Habs have also had their moments at the TD Garden and the Bell Centre.
The two teams have met numerous times during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they be heading on a collision course for a postseason matchup again in 2013-14. But more chapters of this rivalry are still unwritten, and one of those could be completed with an outdoor hockey game.
Sure, the Stadium Series doesn’t have the same aura of the Winter Classic. But with local rivalries and marquee matchups being presented, its safe to say that the only thing missing for the Winter Classic’s baby brother is two Original Six teams facing off.
It would make for quality entertainment. Bruins, Habs, outdoor hockey, and some local entertainment from The Dropkick Murphy’s (or any other Boston based band). And Montreal can surely return the favor down the road for another outdoor game between the two teams. Sure, the city’s current selection of outdoor stadiums are thin, and Olympic Stadium would not fit the mold - unless they want to film the sequel to the movie “Total Recall”. But there’s always hope, especially if there’s more interest in garnering a Major League Baseball team back to the heart of Quebec.
Sure outdoor hockey isn’t perfect. But, as the ratings and attendance figures from the first three Stadium Series showed, it doesn’t have to be.
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