NHL Stadium Series Bang or Burst
The NHL has announced the long anticipated Stadium Series. The first game of which will be the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Solider Field on the 1st March 2014. Whilst the merits of the NHLâ€™s decision to have more outdoor games (in addition to the Winter Classic) will be argued over but it is the date that could also be significant.
With no decision made on NHL players attending the Olympics and 1st March just 6 days after the Olympic Final in Sochi is Bettman wanting the NHL to come back from the Olympic break with a bang or will the Stadium Series be to rival the games?
The game at Solider Field is heavily rumoured to be one of many games taking place at doors next season. In addition to the already announced Winter Classic match up between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Big House there is expected to be games at Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium and BC Place with the later presumably being part of the Stadium Series.
It is not clear yet whether the Solider Field game will be the first game of the series, which calls into question the inclusion of NHL players in the Olympics. That question was not answered during the CBA and lockout with the NHL and the owners saying it would be answered at a later date. Add to this a strong rumour the Yankee Stadium matches will be in the Superbowl week the Stadium Series could be a tool for Bettman to campaign against the Olympic break by showing the owners what they could earn. However after a second lockout in 7 years the NHL has a lot of making up to do and that should mean allowing the players to play at the Olympics.
Outdoor games are fantastic occasions for the fans. Giving more teams the opportunity to play outdoors is of benefit to the fans but the Stadium Series seems to flaw in many ways. Not only will the Pittsburgh Penguins play another game outside making it their third, Chicago will host an outdoor for the second time and as is rumoured the New York Rangers will host 2 outdoor games in succession by hosting the Devils and Islanders at Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile the likes of Minnesota and Colorado may not see any outdoor games despite being ideally placed. It is a tactic that is quite screwed against many fans of NHL teams whilst devaluing the uniqueness of the event.
It is still speculation as to when and where the other games in the Stadium Series will be. However with many of the post lockout rumours coming true it is looking more likely that the only mystery is when the games will be. So it remains to be seen if the NHL will return from Olympics with a bang or will the Chicago game be a center piece to the start of the stretch.