Amid calls that they may be oversaturating the market with outdoor games with the Winter Classic, Heritage Classic, and Stadium Series, the NHL is moving full steam ahead when it comes to scheduling more outdoor tilts.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the NHL is looking into hosting four outdoor games next year, which is a step back from the ambitious six that they put on the docket this season. That number includes the Winter Classic, but there is no word on whether or not a Heritage Classic will be contested in Canada next season.
Early reports are that the Washington Capitals will host the January 1st game, but a venue hasn’t been chosen yet (although odds are it will be held at Nationals Park). Some pundits have said that the Philadelphia Flyers could be a potential opponent for the Caps in the outdoor game (although Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy argues that the Chicago Blackhawks would be an interesting opponent here).
If there isn’t a Heritage Classic next season, then that would mean that there will be three Stadium Series games. One of those will likely take place in Denver, as AdAge is reporting that MillerCoors, the title sponsor of the Series, wants a game in their own backyard in the Colorado Rockies (the mountain range, not the baseball team, nor the now defunct NHL squad).
In an ideal world, the Stadium Series would shake out like this. The Avalanche would more than likely go the historical route and play a game against one of their biggest rivals, inviting the Detroit Red Wings out to the Mile High City to play a game at Coors Field. There have been reports that the Boston Bruins are angling to get a Stadium Series game, to be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, and the Montreal Canadiens would make an excellent opponent for that matchup.
For the final game, there are two directions that the NHL could go. They could choose to try the slightly warmer weather route and choose the San Jose Sharks to play a game at Levi Stadium, new home of the San Francisco 49’ers, with an opponent like the Los Angeles Kings. They could also go with another rivalry game, pairing up the St. Louis Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium.
Many hockey fans would also love to see a matchup between the Minnesota Wild and the Dallas Stars up in the Twin Cities, and there are several venues that could make that one a reality. Finally, they could throw everyone a curve ball by pitting the Phoenix Coyotes against the Winnipeg Jets at Chase Field in Phoenix, with a date a week before the Super Bowl, to be contested in Arizona in 2015, looming as a tantalizing possibility.
Out of all of those matchups, the one that would make the best television would be the Blackhawks/Blues game, but the one that the NHL would be most likely to choose would be the Sharks tilt. The league loves the idea of expanding the game into non-traditional markets through events like this, and with the Coyotes likely getting an All-Star Game in the near future, the Sharks would be an ideal fit in that role if the league opts to go to California for an outdoor game for a second year in a row.
What do you think, hockey fans? Would you tune in for any of these matchups? Do you have any other suggestions for which markets should host an outdoor game next year? Let us know in the comments below.