Winter Classic 2012: Why NHL Needs More Outdoor Games

T.J. McaloonContributorJanuary 2, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 31:  A general view as the Philadelphia Flyers play against the New York Rangers during the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game on December 31, 2011 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Playing ice hockey outdoors is how a lot of players in the National Hockey League learned how to play the game. Every year, hockey fans flock in droves to watch the game get taken out of the big arenas and placed back in its roots outdoors. 

It’s why the NHL needs to add two more outdoor games to its schedule, one to begin the season in Canada and one in February in the South.  

Since its inception in 2008, the Winter Classic is a huge hit for whichever city lands the hosting duties. 

According to, when Pittsburgh was the host last year, the city saw an additional $22 million in additional revenue from hotels, meals and merchandise. Not only does the city enjoy a spike in tourism dollars, the NHL’s main television network, NBC, enjoys a big return from sponsorship dollars. 

According to, the 2011 Winter Classic saw a huge spike in sponsorship and marketing revenue:

NBC sold out its advertising for the New Year's Day game well in advance, and the League's Winter Classic revenues are up 20 percent from last year. In fact, the Jan. 1 game has helped increase sponsorship and marketing revenues by 66 percent over the last three seasons. A total of $330 million in new sponsorship revenue alone has been added over the last three seasons.

With only American cities from a cold weather climate scoring hosting duties for the first five Winter Classics, it leaves other NHL franchises without a chance to host the game. If there was two more outdoor game, teams from Canada or Southern cities could score the game. 

CALGARY, AB - FEBRUARY 20: Miikka Kiprusoff #34 of the Calgary Flames tends net as he is sprayed with ice against the Montreal Canadiens during the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic Game at McMahon Stadium on February 20, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  (Photo
Mike Ridewood/Getty Images

The NHL tried this last year, when they held their second Heritage Classic. 

The outdoor game played at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta Canada was another huge success for the NHL. Despite the -6 degree temperature, there was over 41,000 fans that came out to watch the Calgary Flames defeat the Montreal Canadians 4-0.   

That game proved the NHL can have multiple outdoor games, without making the Winter Classic feel any less special. 

The NHL has already proven that it could withstand playing a game outdoors in high temperatures. Back in 1991, the Los Angles Kings and New York Rangers played in front of 13,000 people in Las Vegas, with the game time temps at 81 degrees. 

If the NHL does go the route of putting on a game in February in the South, then we could finally see a hockey game at the new Cowboys Stadium. 

Could you imagine watching the Dallas Stars take on whomever in front of over 100,000 people? Or better yet, watching a replay of a big goal from Jamie Benn on Jerry Jones’ huge scoreboard. 

With Cowboy Stadium booked with the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, it keeps the NHL from having its biggest crowd ever to watch a game. If they would add another outdoor game in late February, it would allow the NHL to use the facility. 

The NHL has to capitalize on the growing demand for hosting duties of this game. By adding just two more games, it could vault the NHL from being on the fringe of the four main sports in America, to right behind the NFL as the most popular sport. 

Let’s keep giving the fans what they want, one-to-two more chances to watch the game played outdoors in fantastic settings.