It's hard to look upon the green summer grass of Ann Arbor's Michigan Stadium and imagine an NHL rink in midfield. And the palm trees at Dodger Stadium sure seem to clash with everything hockey.
But as the NHL continues to capitalize on the success of staging games outdoors, we’ll see six new outdoor contests this winter, including at the aforementioned unlikely locales. Count ‘em: six in one season. There's only been seven NHL pre-season or regular-season outdoors games total until this year. That number will nearly double in just a few months.
The Heritage Classic kicked things off in 2003. Here’s a rundown:
2003: Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, Heritage Classic
2008: Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, Winter Classic
2009: Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Winter Classic
2010: Boston’s Fenway Park, Winter Classic
2011: Calgary’s McMahon Stadium, Heritage Classic
2011: Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, Winter Classic
2012: Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Winter Classic
Without much hockey in 2013, 2014 brings us both a Winter Classic—last year’s game at Michigan Stadium was simply shoved back a year—and a Heritage Classic in Vancouver’s BC Place.
Add in the brand-new Stadium Series and we’ll also see two January games at New York’s Yankee Stadium, a March game in Chicago’s Soldier Field and the oddest of them all: a Jan. 25 game in Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. Not shockingly, this is the first-ever outdoor NHL game west of the Mississippi in the U.S., the southern-most outdoor NHL game ever, the first outdoor NHL game in California, and the first-ever hockey game played in Dodger Stadium.
Just don’t expect snow. Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.