Ten Outdoor Games I’d Love to See

Image courtesy of Centpacrr at en.wikipedia (CC)

The National Hockey League, and many other leagues around the world have come far in terms of staging outdoor matches and it’s only continuing to grow.  I’m excited to see the NHL take it the game to Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium this weekend; it will really be a treat for those fans.

The Anaheim vs Los Angeles event at Dodger is by far the greatest leap of faith they have taken in planning a game outside, and if it’s a success, it will surely open the door for far more outdoor games in non-traditional markets. A very exciting thought for sure. Here’s a list I’ve assembled of some I’d like to see, not just here in North America, but also abroad.

10. (NHL) Colorado Avalanche V. Detroit Red Wings, Sports Authority Field at Mile High (76,273), Denver, CO, USA

Image courtesy of ESPN.

A classic rivalry from the 90’s, though its cooled a bit since those days, you can’t deny the allure of a Rocky Mountain setting like Mile High.  The challenge here is the typical warm spell the city sees in January, maybe schedule it for December or better yet February.  If they can pull off outdoor hockey in L.A. this weekend though, where it’s supposed to reach 77 on game day, it might not be much of an issue at all.  Who knows, it might brings back some of that old rivalry!

09. (KHL) HC Lev Praha V. Slovan Bratislava, Generali Arena (19,784), Prague, Czech Republic

Image courtesy of Hotel Belvedere Prague.

This derby deserves an outdoor match!  I chose Generali Arena because the massive Strahov Stadium would probably be too much.  How far away do spectators really want to sit anyway?

This historic city would be a great venue to host an event like this, its always a good excuse to bring in tourists and the general feel of Prague would present an awesome atmosphere for outdoor hockey.

08. (DEL) Eisbären Berlin V. Hamburg Freezers, Olympiastadoin Berlin (74,064) , Berlin, Germany.

Image courtesy of geofilms.net.

I’m not aware of the Deutche Eishockey Liga hosting any outdoor games to this point, but it’s possible I’ve missed that somewhere along the way.  At any rate, these two teams have developed a nice rivalry from what I understand, and how could you say no to an afternoon of outside sport in this city?  The weather would be ideal, as it doesn’t see much bitter cold, it could make for a comfortable, yet still cold enough, winter afternoon or evening of hockey in a very classic European city.

07. (NHL) Minnesota Wild V. Dallas Stars, TCF Bank Stadium (50,805), Minneapolis, MN, USA.

Image courtesy of SB Nation.

After the Minnesota North Stars left for Texas in 1993, and then the Wild were granted to St. Paul in 2000, this has been a match in the making. I think it would be fitting, and somewhat a source of closing for those still bitter about moving the North Stars to a non-traditional market if Dallas would make the trek to Minnesota and brave the cold for an afternoon outside against the organisation of their roots.

It’s a no brainer the weather would cooperate; this could be scheduled anytime from November-March and we’d almost be guaranteed a bitterly cold, ice-friendly setting. Realistically, with the University of Minnesota football AND this-coming season, the Minnesota Vikings (NFL) making it their home, this one would have to put on the calendar after football season, probably February to avert any clashes with a Vikings playoff game.

06. (NHL) Ottawa Senators V. Toronto Maple Leafs, TD Place Stadium (24,000), Ottawa, ON, Canada

Image courtesy of Earl Andrew (CC)

With the introduction of the Canadian Football League team the Ottawa RedBlacks in 2014, this sets the stage for a proper outdoor venue for the Senators to host a Winter Classic, Heritage Classic or Stadium Series event. Obviously, its my opinion the other Ontario based team would be the best choice for an opponent.

The only issue here the league might see is attendance. It’s certainly not the largest stadium in Canada and therefore wouldn’t be able to draw the crowd as games in Edmonton, Calgary or this March’s Heritage Classic in Vancouver. Come on though, the capital city of hockey’s birth country deserves an outdoor game!

05. (EIHL) Nottingham Panthers V. Sheffield Steelers, The City Ground (30,602), Nottingham, United Kingdom.

Image courtesy of panoramio.com.

There are all sorts of reasons why this might be more improbable than a reality. The fact that the British football season runs through hockey season is one and scheduling two or more weekends away for the Nottingham Forest to build the rink, and host the game might put a wrench in the works.

Also, the weather.  Rain is the worst case scenario for playing this sport outside. Remember the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh? It was delayed to the evening because temperatures rose into the 40’s during the day and rain was really wreaking havoc with the ice. 40’s and rain? Sounds like a pretty good forecast prediction for any given winter day in England. I’d imagine there’d be no trouble selling this one out though, and the atmosphere would definitely make this a worth-while event if it could ever get off the ground.

04. (NLA) ZSC Zurich V. SC Bern, Letzigrund (25-30,000), Zürich, Switzerland

Image courtesy of halfenusa.com.

SC Bern hosted an outdoor game versus SCL Tigers in January 2007 at the Stade de Suisse with fantastic results. So, I could see them doing it again and hosting league rivals Zurich, but Zurich as Prague, is one of those classic European cities full of history and hockey culture; an outdoor game at Letzigrund would be a sight to see.

The stadium here, is really the only option without venturing out into the cities’ suburbs, and the capacity leaves a bit to be desired. Compared to the arena sizes in National League A though, it would really allow for a larger crowd than usual and would really be an event to see.

03. (NHL) Dallas Stars V. Minnesota Wild, Rangers Ballpark (48,144) , Arlington, TX, USA

Image courtesy of ESPN.

You might be thinking, you already did this one. But hear me out, I choose the Wild because of the connection the two clubs have, but really it could be any team making the trip to Arlington and I’d be happy. I went to college in this city and lived there for six years. Coming from the North East, U.S., I didn’t expect the hockey fandom to even exist at all, but the Stars have a bold and fanatic support system.

Having attended Stars games, I know for a fact the energy can and would be supplied for an outdoor game, not to mention, I have no doubt it would be a sell—out. The stadium itself is perfect. I’ve never had a bad seat at a Rangers (MLB) game, and there would not be a bad seat in the house.

Again, as with any other warmer-weather market, this weekend in L.A. is a huge test. It’s still not totally unrealistic for Dallas-Ft. Worth to see temperatures in the 20’s overnight through winter, and they periodically experience some very cold days from January through early February, this is not as far fetched as some may think.

02. (KHL) SCKA Moscow V. Dynamo Moscow, Otkrytie Arena (44,000), Moscow, Russia

Image courtesy of open.ru.

Moscow is getting a new stadium for football club FC Spartak Moscow and for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, so there was no way I could resist this one. The KHL played an All Star Game outside in Red Square in January 2009, which was an epic and timeless setting. The temptation to changing that for a future event is as usual attendance. I understand European games host smaller crowds on a regular basis, so maybe this is just my American pespective.

I have a feeling though, you could find 44,000 hockey fans in Russia to fill Otkrytie.  The Kontinental Hockey League doesn’t hold outdoor games on a regular basis, it would be exciting to see them pick it up a bit and plan some doozies like this in those larger Russian soccer stadiums.

01. (NHL) Philadelphia Flyers V. Pittsburgh Penguins, Beaver Stadium (106,572), State College, PA, USA.

Image courtesy of pennstatermag.com.

This is it for me. The end all, be all.  If this ever happens, no matter where I am in the world, I am dropping everything, packing my bags, and being there.  As a Flyers fan, we’ve all talked amongst ourselves about a Pens/Flyers game at a neutral location.  As a Pennsylvania native, Beaver Stadium is the only option.

The Penn State football games I’ve attended, most recently the 4-OT thriller against Michigan last October, are electric.  100,000+ amped up fans of any sport really, provide an incomparable atmosphere and as we saw in Ann Arbor New Year’s Day 2014, college football stadiums play a great host. Of course it would be a sell-out and the weather in January or February would be ideal, so you could either host the Winter Classic or a Stadium Series event.

This also provides us with one of the finest rivalries in the NHL and what would be an unforgettable scene.

_____________________________________

There are plenty of options all over North American and Europe for outdoor games, and these are just a few I think would be the most exciting, either because of the rivalry or the sheer classiness of the host city and venue. All of which go into making an event unforgettable.  It will be really exciting to see where the NHL goes with the Winter and Heritage Classics, and especially the new Stadium Series in years to come.  After this weekend, we’ll have a much better gauge on where exactly outdoor hockey can feasibly be played.

Let’s never forget hockey’s roots and enjoy the games!

Follow Dylan on Twitter, and while you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk!

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