With the last few Winter Classics being such huge successes, BLOOMBERG is reporting that the NHL is looking at venues for future outdoor games that are even less traditional than Wrigley Field. Just how “outside the box” is the NHL thinking for its outdoor game? How about holding the game on the Las Vegas Strip or the Rose Bowl.
You can see why the league is interested in expanding the idea of outdoor hockey: the Winter Classic game between the Red Wings and Blackhawks on New Year’s Day drew the highest rating for the NHL in 34 years. With as desperate as the NHL is for TV viewers, it’s a little shocking that the league hasn’t just gone ahead and made every game an outdoor game.
The NHL has some experience with outdoor hockey in Las Vegas - an exhibition game between the Kings and the Rangers in September 1991 drew 13,000 fans, who were able to see a sloppy game played on miserable, melting ice. Having the game on Jan. 1 would mean colder temperatures and better ice conditions (unless they have one of those pesky monsoons they get in the desert).
Of course, having the game on Jan. 1 might be a problem if they select the Rose Bowl as an event location, since I believe the venue has something scheduled for Jan. 1, 2009. And 2010. And 2011. Other possibilities thrown out by NHL officials include Yankee Stadium (a contender for this past year’s game) and Penn State’s Beaver Stadium.
If the game ends up on the Vegas strip, I could pretty much promise a sell-out, if only from the guys who stand on the street and hand out the pornography. It also would be another step towards Las Vegas finally getting a pro sports team - since they kind of bombed out with the NBA after the All-Star game in 2007, the NHL might need to be their fallback plan.