The NHL had to cancel the 2013 Winter Classic due to the lockout, but the league is reportedly planning on making up that disappointment to fans in a big way next season.
According to ESPN's Scott Burnside, the league is planning six outdoor contests for the 2013-14 season. This move marks an expansion from the traditional Winter Classic, which has been held on or around New Year's Day since 2008.
Next season's series of games will begin with the Winter Classic, which will feature the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in Ann Arbor, Mich. This game will serve to make up the one lost due to the labor dispute, as games did not begin until Jan. 19 this season.
Additional games would continue over the course of the season in major cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Vancouver. The venues and details of the games aren’t fully realized yet, but the league has tentative plans about how the schedule would play out.
According to Burnside, the first additional game would take place on Jan. 25 at Dodger Stadium between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.
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The New York Rangers would then get the unprecedented distinction of playing two outdoor games, the first versus New Jersey Devils on Jan. 26 and second against the New York Islanders on Jan. 29. Both of those games would take place at Yankee Stadium.
The Pittsburgh Penguins would travel to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on March 1, and the Heritage Classic between the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators on March 2 would round out the series.
All these dates and times still aren’t set in stone. But if the NHL’s plans come to fruition, the addition of outdoor games should be a great way to ingratiate frustrated fans back to the product. Outdoor hockey games—specifically the Winter Classic—have become one-off staples for the NHL, a time where everyone can gather outside and watch professionals play the way they used to as kids at the local outdoor rink.
By expanding the series, the NHL will look to create that sense of joy in even more cities across North America.