Two of the biggest NHL events are the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series. The Winter Classic is a regular season hockey game that is played outdoors. The game usually takes place in football or baseball stadiums that are usually near any NHL team. It takes place on or around New Year’s Day. The Stadium series is also a regular hockey game that is played outdoors but it is different from the Winter Classic as more teams are usually involved with multiple stadiums. The Winter Classic began in 2008 and the most recent one took place on January 1. The Washington Capitals faced the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. The Capitals won the game by a score of 3-2.
The Winter Classic has become one of the most successful NHL events and matchups usually feature the league’s superstars as well as the most popular teams. The event is the highest attendance for that year and some of the biggest TV ratings. The Winter Classic is the reason behind the creation of the Stadium series as the outdoor game became very popular to hockey fans. The Stadium series began in 2014 and the most recent game took place on Feb 21st 2015. The Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California and the Kings won the game by a score of 2-1.
As the demand grows for more outdoor games more options for venues are going to be needed. Teams want to apart of the event and there are many great stadiums that have yet to be used. Listed below are the top 10 venues the NHL should consider for future outdoor games.
10 Carter - Finley Stadium
The city of Raleigh, North Carolina has hosted the NHL Entry Draft as well as All Star weekend before so why not the outdoor game as well? The best venue to host the outdoor game is Carter -Finley stadium. It is currently the home of the North Carolina State Wolfpack football team. The Carolina Hurricanes could play a divisional opponent such as the Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins, as to attract spectators with visiting superstars. The outdoor game could spark interest from local fans as well as the visiting fans. It would also provide exposure for both the NHL and the Carolina Hurricanes in a market that needs a little boost. They'd be an interesting choice to host a future outdoor game.
If the NHL would like to explore another part of North Carolina, perhaps Bank of America Stadium (home of the Panthers) which is currently undergoing some renovations, could be another option.
9 AT&T Stadium
If the state of California can host the Stadium Series, the state of Texas should be given a shot as well. The ideal stadium to host an outdoor game in Texas is AT&T Stadium located in Arlington, Texas. 'Jerry World' has also hosted many big events from other sports as well. The Dallas Stars would pounce at the opportunity for a potential money grabber.. They are the only NHL team in Texas and a possible opponent could be the Chicago Blackhawks or Montreal Canadiens, whose fan bases always travel well. It would also help to attract new fans to the NHL in one of the biggest markets in the United States. The A&T Stadium's massive capacity would not only help the Dallas Stars but the NHL would also profit were it to hold the Stadium series in Texas.
8 Parc Jean Drapeau
Parc Jean Drapeau is a venue that hosts many events throughout the year and it is located near the city of Montreal, Quebec. There's no argument needed as to why the Habs should host an outdoor game. The Canadiens could play their rival Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings. Parc Jean Drapeau should be taken into consideration for future Winter Classic because the venue can hold a large seating capacity and it showcases the St. Lawrence River as well as the Montreal skyline. The Montreal Canadiens have played in outdoor games before and are set to play in the Winter Classic next year when they visit Boston. Montreal has a huge hockey fan base who would quickly sell out should the NHL decide go there. It should be an easy choice.
7 Commonwealth Stadium
Why not go back to where all the outdoor game craze started? The city of Edmonton hasn't hosted an NHL outdoor game since 2003 and it's about time that they get the opportunity to do so again. Perhaps the NHL's waiting for the Edmonton Oilers to become a competitive team, but a "Battle for Alberta" affair with Calgary can easily sell. Both Edmonton and Calgary love their hockey so interest would be high and the game would draw national attention across Canada. The storied history of the Commonwealth stadium along with a large fan base is great for an outdoor game.
6 LP Field
The timing of an NHL outdoor game in Tennessee has never been better due to the rise of interest in the Nashville Predators. The stadium to host such an event is LP Field located in Nashville. LP Field hosts many events as well as college football games. The Nashville Predators are currently one of the best teams in the NHL and fans have started to show excitement for the team. The Nashville Predators could play teams such as the St. Louis Blues or Detroit Red Wings. The city of Nashville will also host the 2016 All Star weekend. The city of Nashville also offers many places to visit and many things to do for visiting fans which means that Nashville is finally ready to host future NHL outdoor games.
5 Lambeau Field
The state of Wisconsin could potentially host an NHL outdoor game and the best stadium is Lambeau Field. Lambeau Field is the iconic home of the Green Bay Packers. While the state of Wisconsin does not have an NHL team they do have successful junior level, college and minor hockey teams. The nearby NHL teams are the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. The Minnesota Wild could play the Chicago Blackhawks. Both have great fan bases and would be willing to make the trip. With a high level of hockey interest among the six million people living in Wisconsin as well as the cold weather it is the perfect place to host the Winter Classic or Stadium Series. Come on, a hockey game on the frozen tundra? How does that not psyche you up?
4 Busch Stadium
The city of St. Louis, Missouri deserves the opportunity to host an outdoor game and Busch Stadium is an ideal venue choice. The home of the St. Louis Cardinals is a great option. The Cardinals rule the sports scene in St. Louis, but the Blues have quite a bit of history, being one of the expansion teams of 1967. The Blues could play this game against one of their rivals like the Blackhawks or Predators. The Blues have been one of the top teams in the league for the past few years and have enough local and national interest to fill up seats at Busch Stadium. Busch Stadium has also added the Ballpark Village which would also bring in more fans. It is a prime candidate to host the NHL's Winter Classic.
3 Beaver Stadium
Hockey is huge in the state of Pennsylvania and what better way to showcase it than in Beaver Stadium? Beaver Stadium is home to the Penn State Nittany Lions. It is located in University Park, Pennsylvania, sitting right between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, making it the perfect setting for a Flyers/Penguins clash.
Beaver Stadium is the second largest college football stadium in the Western Hemisphere. It also has a grand seating capacity of 106,572. The Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins could play against one another in the "Battle for Pennsylvania". Both the Penguins and Flyers have strong fan bases that would easily fill up the seats at Beaver Stadium. Can you imagine the cool division of orange and gold in the crowd?
The TV ratings would also increase making NBC executives happy therefore Beaver Stadium should be taken into consideration for future outdoor games.
2 Notre Dame Stadium
Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana is arguably the most iconic stadium in college football and is perfect for an outdoor game. Home to the Fighting Irish, the stadium is synonymous with success. The stadium is located in South Bend, Indiana and because there is no NHL team in Indiana the nearby teams are the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks and Red Wings could play one another and NHL fans in the state of Indiana would finally be able to attend an NHL game. Notre Dame is a viable option for an outdoor game due to its history and the attention it would receive from local fans. If the outdoor games are all about growing the game, it'd be great to tap into a new state.
1 Ohio Stadium
The top venue to hold an NHL outdoor game is in the state of Ohio. Ohio Stadium is currently home to the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. It's time for the city of Columbus to be given some excitement, by going to the horse shoe to watch their Blue Jackets in a high profile game. The playoff crowd in Columbus last year showed much promise for the city as a hockey market.
The Blue Jackets could play the Penguins, Red Wings, Rangers or Flyers. The NHL should take Ohio Stadium into consideration due to the large seating capacity that could hold a lot of home and visiting fans. The stadium also has been given great reviews in terms of the fan experience. Plus the city just recently hosted the 2015 All Star Game weekend. Ohio is a growing hockey market and adding either the Winter Classic or Stadium Series would help expand further growth.