1991 outdoor NHL game in Las Vegas
|Date||September 27, 1991|
|Arena||Caesars Palace parking lot|
|City||Las Vegas, Nevada|
The 1991 outdoor National Hockey League (NHL) game in Las Vegas was an exhibition pre-season game between the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings that took place on September 27, 1991, on an outside rink built over the parking lot of the Caesars Palace hotel and casino. This was the first official outdoor NHL game, and was part of the pre-season schedule for the 1991–92 NHL season for both teams.
The idea of having an exhibition ice hockey game outdoors in Las Vegas belongs to Rich Rose, president of Caesars World Sports and a Rangers fan, who first proposed it in 1988. His idea was met with criticism and incredulity, but when he called the NHL league office in 1991, the call was routed to Steve Flatow, the NHL's marketing director at the time, who thought it was an intriguing idea and advised Rose on how to get it approved. He suggested Rose speak first to the Los Angeles Kings, whose roster included Wayne Gretzky. With their interest, Flatow believed the Rangers would also be interested, and the game would showcase two high-profile teams from the two largest markets. Rose was able to convince the King's executive vice-president, Roy Mlakar, and the team's owner Bruce McNall. After that, Flatow helped Rose contact the Rangers, who agreed to play, the event was scheduled for September 27, 1991. The temporary seats and rink were erected for a total cost of $135,000, and were ready two days prior to the start of the game. The ice was laid down for Bob May of Ice Systems of America, under the directions of Michael Rzechula and Robert Krolak from ITI (now Ice Rink Supply) through the use of the IRS patented family of Ice Building Products: Slush Ice, Instant Ice, Base Ice, Ice Building Additive and Slick Ice. According to May, the outside ice rink in Las Vegas was "a big challenge", using three times the refrigeration equipment as one would for a regular rink. The lines on the rink were not painted, as is usually done, but were fabric strips laid into the ice. The boards featured rotating and lit advertising panels to display different sponsors. This was a concept and technology that was still in its infancy but later implemented in many NHL arenas. Among the games in-board advertisers: Toyota, Target, ITT Sheraton, Budweiser, Thrifty car rental, and Upper Deck trading cards.
The air temperature at puck drop was around 85 °F (29 °C), going as high as 95 °F (35 °C) during the course of the game, with 28% humidity, though the ice held up well. The Rangers started the game well, scoring two goals by Tony Amonte and Doug Weight for a 2−0 lead at the end of the first period. In the second period, the Kings scored three goals by Tony Granato, Brian Benning, and Sylvain Couturier to get a 3−2 lead at the end of the second period. The Kings added two more goals in the third period by Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky for a 5−2 win.
The Kings captain was Wayne Gretzky, while the Rangers had yet to name a captain for the upcoming season. The Rangers previous captain Kelly Kisio had signed with the San Jose Sharks during the off-season. Mark Messier wouldn't be named the Rangers next captain, until after joining the team October 5, 1991, being traded from the Edmonton Oilers for the Rangers' Bernie Nicholls, Steven Rice and 1989 draft pick Louie DeBrusk.
The game was televised live on Prime Ticket, and, due to its uniqueness, has since been repeated numerous times on other networks, such as MSG Network and the NHL Network. During the game, Kings goaltender Kelly Hrudey wore a camera mounted on his mask, and shots from his point of view were used during the broadcast.
Cancelled second game
A second exhibition game was scheduled between the Rangers and the Kings to take place on September 29, 1991, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The game, however, was cancelled, due to poor and unsafe ice conditions at the Charlotte Coliseum.
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