NHL outdoor games
The Heritage Classic has been held thrice and has thus far featured match-ups between Canadian teams. The 2003 Heritage Classic between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens was the first outdoor regular season game in NHL history and led to the annual Winter Classic, held on New Year's Day in the United States. The third Heritage Classic and sixth Winter Classic were held in 2014, alongside four additional outdoor games as part of the Stadium Series.
Prior to 2003, NHL teams had been involved in two outdoor exhibition games. The Detroit Red Wings played an outdoor game in 1954 against a team of inmates at the Marquette Branch Prison. In 1991, the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers played a pre-season game outside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The NHL's outdoor series have proven wildly popular with fans and have led to numerous attendance records. The 2003 Heritage Classic drew 57,167 fans, a league record that stood until 71,217 fans in Buffalo set another NHL record in the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008. The 2014 event, between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs drew 105,491 fans, the current NHL record.
The first outdoor game on record to feature an NHL team was attempted on February 2, 1954. The Detroit Red Wings played an exhibition game on an outdoor ice surface, in 21 °F (−6 °C) degree weather, against the Marquette Pirates, an athletic club composed of inmates at Michigan's Marquette Branch Prison. The game, and the Pirates club, was allegedly organized as a way for Red Wings manager Jack Adams to make good with two convicted mafia members incarcerated at the prison. By the end of the first period alone, the Red Wings had amassed an 18–0 score against the prisoners; score keeping was abandoned after that point and the rest of the game effectively became an informal scrimmage.
Two years after the 1954 prison match, the Boston Bruins went on a postseason barnstorm of Atlantic Canada, which included a stop in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland. The Bruins played a five-game tournament against local teams in the Newfoundland Hockey League, all on an outdoor ice surface, under similar rules to those of the 1954 prison match. The Bruins won all five contests.
During their time at the Civic Arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins could have theoretically hosted an outdoor NHL game due to the arena having a retractable roof. (The arena was originally built for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, who only stayed at the arena until 1973.) However, the roof was always closed during hockey games with both the Penguins and their AHL predecessors, the Pittsburgh Hornets, whom the Penguins replaced upon the 1967 NHL expansion. The roof was permanently closed after 1994 when the Penguins replaced the center scoreboard.
The first outdoor game between two NHL teams (and the first played to completion) was an official pre-season match-up on September 27, 1991. The game took place in the parking lot of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, and featured the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers. The process of keeping the ice cool in the desert heat required three times as much coolant as a standard NHL rink. There were few problems despite temperatures that reached 95 °F (35 °C) during the day and a game time temperature of 80 °F (27 °C). During the contest grasshoppers began to jump onto the ice, where they would freeze or drown in water used to maintain the ice, and by the end of the second period the ice was littered with the bugs. Nearly 14,000 fans watched the Kings defeat the Rangers 5–2. Since 1997, the Los Angeles Kings have returned to Las Vegas to play an annual indoors preseason game as part of the Frozen Fury series.
The first regular-season outdoor game in the history of the NHL took place on November 22, 2003, at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, when the Edmonton Oilers played the Montreal Canadiens in the 2003 Heritage Classic. The Oilers had suggested the idea of hosting an outdoor game as early as the mid 1980s, but the genesis of the 2003 event was the "Cold War" outdoor game played two years prior between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
In 2005, NBC Sports Executive VP Jon Miller then pitched the concept an annual outdoor game as a television event to the NHL, "but they didn't find the concept workable." In December 2006, Miller found an ally in then-league Executive VP/Business & Media John Collins, who embraced the idea. This led to the inaugural Winter Classic game on January 1, 2008, with the Pittsburgh Penguins visiting the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
On May 1, 2013, the NHL announced that the Chicago Blackhawks would host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field in Chicago on March 1, 2014, as part of a new series of outdoor games called the NHL Stadium Series. By the end of May 2013, the NHL had scheduled a record six outdoor NHL games for the 2013-14 season: one Winter Classic, one Heritage Classic, and four Stadium Series games.
With the conclusion of the 2014 Stadium Series, 18 of the NHL's 30 teams will have participated in an outdoor game. Eleven teams will have hosted the 13 games. Six teams will have appeared in multiple games. Chicago is the only team who will have hosted two games. Pittsburgh and the Rangers will have appeared in three games each. Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Montreal will each have appeared in two games. Each Canadian team, with the exception of Winnipeg, will have appeared in an outdoor game. Every team having appeared in the Stanley Cup finals since 2006, with the exception of Carolina, will have appeared in an outdoor game.
List of NHL outdoor games
Bolded teams denote winners
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