Unique venues, loud jerseys: The factors that make the Stadium Series special

It was the end of a KISS show at Dodger Stadium in 2014, when the band played the final bombastic notes of “Rock and Roll All Nite” and pyrotechnics lit up the palm trees near the hockey rink. That was the moment I fell in love with the bizarre and daring spectacle that is the NHL Stadium Series.

Imagine Winter Classic as the most beautiful wedding you’ve ever been to. The stadium series is an after-party. Think of Winter Classics as a Norman Rockwell painting. The Stadium series is a black light poster featuring a flying saucer.

“Winter Classics” is more traditional, historical. It has the feel of snow—whether real or fake,” Steve Meyer, NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer, told Sportzshala.

“The stadium series is a bit more modern. Colorful, graphic-oriented, progressive, interactive,” Mayer said, going into short word association mode, “night, lighting, pyrotechnics… let’s go. future thinking.

Mayer spoke from Raleigh, North Carolina, where the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes played Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium in North Carolina.8ET, ABC and Sportzshala+).

This is the 13th edition of the Stadium Series. 14 Winter Classic games have been released, with the next release planned for T-Mobile Park in Seattle in January 2024.

The Legacy Classic, an outdoor NHL series played at Canadian venues, effectively predates the Winter Classic. Its first edition was held in 2003 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, which will host the 7th Heritage Classic scheduled for October. 2017 saw the release of special outdoor games such as the NHL 100 Classic and Centennial Classic, as well as two 2021 Melty outdoor games at Lake Tahoe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These other series have their own special charm. But none of them gave us California outdoor hockey teams, rinks inside military academies, or NHL jerseys designed to be seen from space.

In other words, none of them is a series of stadiums.

The stadium series was, in a way, born out of necessity.

With winter classics filling football and baseball stadiums, it’s no wonder the NHL wanted to expand its outdoor program in the US after the New Year and give it a different vibe.

“I think the success of the Winter Classic created the Stadium series,” said Mayer, who joined the NHL in 2015. – Let’s go back to that time: “Winter Classics” was on fire. the interest to do more, but the interest to do something a little different.”

But the debut of the Stadium Series in 2014 was a direct result of lost revenue during the 2012 lockout, which cut the 2012-13 regular season from 82 games to 48 games.

Holding five games outdoors—in Los Angeles, Chicago, two at Yankee Stadium in New York, and the Heritage Classic in Vancouver—was a surefire way to create a river of new revenue, and the owners and players agreed to it.

“When you get to markets like Vancouver and you see mittens and hats and scarves and all that, it’s almost like [another] The NHL team with all the revenue generated,” John Collins, then NHL chief operating officer, told me in 2013.

But another motivation for the games was to get more teams involved. By 2013, there had been five Winter Classic games, but only eight teams participated—the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers had already played twice. Only two Western Conference teams—the stalwart Original Sixes, the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks—have competed in the Classics. The Stadium Series will provide more outdoor play opportunities for other teams and cities, and will allow the NHL to reuse some franchises outside of the Winter Classic.

“This is definitely an opportunity. To get into more markets earlier and get back to the markets that worked,” Collins told me in 2013. Boston was a great experience. Philadelphia was a great experience. games a year, we’re not going back there in 10-15 years.”

(In fact, it will be 13 years before the NHL hits Fenway Park again by visiting Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium at the 2016 Winter Classic.)

The participants themselves are one of the four reasons for the success of the Stadium Series:

1. Teams

With the Hurricanes hosting the Capitals on Saturday and the Seattle Cracken hosting the Vegas Golden Knights next January, there are only three teams left that haven’t played outdoor NHL games yet: the Arizona Coyotes. , Columbus Blue Jackets – seriously, CBJ vs. “Pittsburgh at the Horseshoe should take place – and the Florida Panthers, whose ears pricked up when Commissioner Gary Bettman recently said the NHL was looking into Sunshine State outdoor play with the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.”

“We’re very proud to be close to our goal with every NHL team taking part in the outdoor game,” Mayer said. “Without the stadium series, we wouldn’t have it.”

The stadium series got weird from the start in 2014, with the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings playing outdoor hockey at Dodger Stadium with palm trees around the rink and KISS on levitating platforms. The New York Rangers were a road team—per their contract with Madison Square Garden—for two games against the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium. Another Stadium Series game that year featured hits: The Penguins and Blackhawks, two Winter Classic veterans, at Soldier Field.

It was one of six outdoor games the Blackhawks played from 2009 to 2019.

“Now I can laugh about it. On how at one point there was a popular joke: “Oh, the Chicago Blackhawks are playing? It has to be an outdoor game,” Mayer said. “Several teams were constantly involved in these games. But they were in those games for all the right reasons: they were incredibly successful and got high ratings.”

The Kings returned to the Stadium Series in 2015 to take on the San Jose Sharks at Levy Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. In 2016, the Minnesota Wild made their outdoor game debut against the Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and the Colorado Avalanche played their first outdoor game against the Red Wings at Coors Field.

The Penguins and Flyers played a duo of Stadium Series home games in 2017 (Heinz Field) and 2019 (Lincoln Financial Field). Sandwiched between them was a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Capitals at Navy-Marine Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. The NHL went military again in 2020 with the Kings and Avalanche at the Air Force Academy in Colorado right before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Stadium Series returned in 2022 with an all-out Nashville party between the Predators and Lightning at the home of the Tennessee Titans. Please remember the Outlaw Bikers vs. Canadian Tuxedos battle during the players’ arrival.

“I think what we’ve done over the past few years is an attempt to share the wealth and open it up to more teams,” Mayer said.

And the more teams, the more distinctive locations.

2. Venues

I still think about playing at Dodger Stadium. Not only because it gave us this iconic photo of Gary Bettman dating KISSbut because of the audacity of his production: volleyball players and hockey games on the field and the coverage of all this Californian kitsch inside the iconic place.

It was truly the first time the NHL had allowed its fancy flag to fly at one of those outdoor games. I’m not sure we’d get a giant cowboy boot at the Cotton Bowl or an Ice Diamond at Fenway without this game setting a surreal tone.

It was also the first event in the “outdoor gaming era” to be held at night. The 2011 Winter Classic between the Penguins and the Capitals was rescheduled for the evening due to weather issues. When the Hurricanes host the Capitals this weekend, they will be lit up during prime time.

Another new addition to the Raleigh stadium series is that NC State students in attendance will be able to enjoy the game from the field, adding to the sporting spirit of the college.

The stadium series was played at four college stadiums, including the only two games the NHL played at military academies, as well as five NFL venues and three MLB parks.

The first military academy the NHL turned to was the United States Military Academy at West Point. But Michi Stadium was due to undergo a renovation that didn’t fit the NHL’s schedule, so the league turned its attention to the Naval Academy in Annapolis instead of the 2018 game.

“Obviously it was one of our most successful games,” Mayer said. “Then we went to the Air Force Academy… and we are still waiting for the army.

(If the NHL is looking for a place to bring the Florida Panthers into outdoor play and doesn’t want to risk the Florida climate, they seem like a natural fit for the Army. Owner Vincent Viola is an Army alumnus nominated for Secretary of the Army under the Trump administration. Plus, their logo is inspired by on the patch of the 101st Airborne Division.)

There were well-dressed cadets on both of these sites. And fashion is a key part of the Stadium series’ appeal.

3. Jerseys

This is perhaps the biggest demarcation point between the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series. Look no further than Predators.

In 2020, Nashville played in the Winter Classic against the Dallas Stars. Their jerseys had the team’s name written across the chest inside a bright yellow stripe. Adidas, which helped create the jersey, said it has a “legacy aesthetic, with designs inspired by Nashville’s rich hockey history and passionate hockey fans.”

Nashville hosted the Stadium Series in 2022. This time, their sweater had the word “SMASHVILLE” written in the same block letters as on the old concert poster, with a pick in the middle.

“An object…

Source: www.espn.com

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