It appears the NHL doesn’t think you can have too much of a good thing. The annual Winter Classic held every year on New Year’s Day has been a huge success for the National Hockey League, and there have been rumblings for years that they want to add more outdoor games each year. If reports from TSN are to be believed, the NHL will have 6 outdoor games 2013-14. One of those “outdoor” games will be at BC Place on March 2, 2014.
Here’s a rundown of the games (subject to change):
January 1: Toronto vs Detroit (Michigan Stadium, Winter Classic)
January 25: Anaheim vs Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium)
January 26: New Jersey vs NY Rangers (Yankee Stadium, week before the Super Bowl in NY)
January 29: NY Islanders vs NY Rangers (Yankee Stadium, week before the Super Bowl in NY)
March 1: Pittsburgh vs Chicago (Soldier Field, week after the Sochi Olympics)
March 2: Ottawa vs Vancouver (BC Place, week after the Sochi Olympics)
My first reaction to this was that this obviously is too much of a good thing. What makes the Winter Classic special is that it’s a one time a year thing. The actual caliber of play on the outdoor ice surface is usually substandard and the sight lines for fans are poor as well. It’s the novelty of the game that makes it special. Having 6 games a year reduces the novelty significantly.
Another reason why the Winter Classic works is because it takes the game back to its roots, reminding everyone of playing on the frozen pond. Having a game in California and in Vancouver are unlikely to bring back those memories.
The Ottawa vs Vancouver game is probably the least intriguing of all the matchups. They’re not rivals, they’re not in a cold weather climate (especially in March), and even when the roof is open, BC Place can barely be considered an outdoor stadium. The game will be about a week after the Olympics, which will mean it will probably be overshadowed. It would make a lot more sense to have the Canucks play a team that they have some semblance of a rivalry against also.
Now don’t get me wrong, I will be extremely excited for a hockey game at BC Place. There will be a novelty aspect because I have never seen my team involved in this kind of a game and I think it will be a game that most fans will circle on their calendar. But unless you’re a fan of the Senators or Canucks, you’re not likely to be terribly interested in the game.