It started with Jose Theodore wearing a toque on top of his mask at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in November 2003 before 57,167 people. The Heritage Classic rung in the NHL’s outdoor-game era. The first Winter Classic solidified it on New Year’s Day 2008, staged before 71,217 at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, punctuated with Sidney Crosby’s game-winning shootout goal.
After last weekend’s aesthetically pleasing but technically rocky Lake Tahoe games, the NHL has now delivered 32 outdoor games over the past 17 years and three months. Certain venues have stood out more than others, such as the Big House in Michigan, which drew a record 105,491 people in 2014. But which players have stood out the most? Based on 32 games of data, who are the best outdoor-game performers in NHL history?
I present the All-Outdoor Team.
Honorable mentions: Eric Fehr, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Quick, Tyler Toffoli, James van Riemsdyk
The big checker Fehr has morphed into a juggernaut in outdoor games, chipping in three goals and four points in three games for the Washington Capitals (2011, 2015) and Pittsburgh Penguins (2017). Keith is the iron man among defensemen with six career outdoor games, albeit the Hawks have been outscored with him on the ice in those affairs. Quick is 2-1-0 with a sparkling 1.34 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in outdoor games. Toffoli shared the outdoor goals record with Fehr at three going into last weekend and was the only player with an outdoor hat trick before the Lake Tahoe games. After competing in Lake Tahoe last weekend, van Riemsdyk is the all-time leader in outdoor games played with seven, amassing a 3-3-6 stat line.
THE ALL-OUTDOOR TEAM
LEFT WING: Henrik Zetterberg
Zetterberg mastered setting teammates up on the slushy outdoor ice, picking up seven assists and seven points in four games. He holds the outdoor record for assists and shares the points lead.
CENTER: Jonathan Toews
Trailing only ‘JVR’ in games, Toews owns a 2-5-7 stat line across six outdoor matchups, sharing the all-time scoring lead with Zetterberg.
RIGHT WING: David Pastrnak
‘Pasta’ picked up a hat trick last weekend and already had a 1-1-2 line in his previous outdoor affair, so he’s now the all-time leader in outdoor goals with four and has five points in just two forays. Pastrnak appears to be Mr. Outdoor Game among forwards.
DEFENSE: John Carlson, Mike Green
Carlson and Green both average a point per game across three outdoor forays apiece, including two as teammates with the Caps. Carlson was the first star at the U.S. Naval Academy’s outdoor game in Annapolis, Maryland in 2018, picking up three points, the most in an outdoor game by a defenseman. Green’s three career outdoor assists are the most among D-men, a record now shared with John Moore after Boston’s 7-3 beatdown of the Flyers at Lake Tahoe.
GOALTENDER: Henrik Lundqvist
Hank is the king out of outdoor games. He’s a perfect 4-0-0 for the New York Rangers, holding a 1.98 goals-against average and .934 SP. He stopped 30 of 31 shots to earn the first star in a 2014 Stadium Series matchup against the New York Islanders. He stopped 34 of 36 shots at the 2012 Winter Classic to earn the second star and, five months later, would be awarded his first and only Vezina Trophy.