With about three days away from this year’s Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, the question of adding more outdoor games to the NHL schedule is being tossed around.
The Winter Classic has become a staple in the United States, while the Heritage Classic has done the same for NHL fans in Canada. The question is should there be more games throughout both countries involving teams in different markets?
“Absolutely, there should be more Canadian teams in these games,” said NHL chief operating officer John Collins, to the Canadian Press. “Just like teams in Minnesota should be involved and St. Louis should be involved and Colorado should be involved — you can just keep going on and on.”
Collins said there the attention and positive feedback the league has received since the first game in 2008 from Buffalo could lead the league to experiment into new markets like those listed.
“It’s still early, it’s only five years,” Collin said. “Certainly we’ve got a lot of attention and I think the business metrics have been great. I think just getting to more markets (will help with) exposing the game.”
Collins said the outdoor games don’t have to be played on Jan. 1 like the Winter Classic has traditionally been played. The thought of having several games back-to-back at various outdoor locations on one day could be something to think about.
Collins, who took the job in August 2008, said he’d like to see the games be more nationalized than regionalized. “I think there are a lot of markets that would be fantastic,” he said. “I’d like to ultimately see these games not viewed as a regional matchup or a Canada game or a U.S. game, but really kind of a celebration of hockey.”
The weather last year, according to Collins, hurt the game. He said the change of the puck drop from 1 pm to prime time hurt because people planned to watch the game during the afternoon.
The idea of adding more outdoor games scares me a little. In my opinion, the game is already losing its luster after four years. The shock of watching a game being played from a baseball or football field is beginning to wain, so adding more games could water the product down.
Adding markets like St. Louis or Colorado is a good idea on paper, but if you ask a casual sports fan to watch a game between two teams he can’t name a single player on that doesn’t play in New York, Washington or Chicago is a gamble. Sure, hockey fans would watch, but lets be honest: this game wasn’t created for hockey fans. It was created to get new people watch and to grab the back-page the NHL loses out to day-after-day.
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