The NHL held its first outdoor regular-season game in 2003. That contest featured the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens and has since been referred to as the Heritage Classic. Five years later, the league unveiled the Winter Classic—an outdoor spectacle to be held on January 1 each year.
It's been one of the highlights of the season since then, and the HBO series 24/7 gives fans a unique and rare look at hockey players behind the scenes.
Of course, the outdoor games generate massive amounts of revenue for the league, so instead of holding just one or two games like this a year, the NHL has decided that we need six of them across a two-month span—including a game between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
As per NHL.com's report on the so called "Stadium Series":
The Winter Classic returns to its New Year's Day spot when the Toronto Maple Leafs face off against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. The Anaheim Ducks play the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium the night before the Grammy Awards, and the games between the Rangers and the New Jersey Devils and then the Islanders at Yankee Stadium take place during the lead-up to the Super Bowl at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
According to Gary Bettman, the NHL is just giving fans what they want. He told NHL.com that "I don't think we're overdoing them at all. We're actually responding to the incredible interest and demand we're getting."
That's all fine and well, but the conditions in Winter Classics gone by haven't exactly been perfect. The 2011 game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins featured something that was closer to slush than ice, and if that's the best they can do in Pennsylvania (average January temperature: 38 degrees Fahrenheit), then why would Los Angeles (average January temperature: 68 degrees Fahrenheit) fare any better?
A quick glance at the final standings from 2013 should be all the evidence one needs to determine how important two points are. If the Rangers drop both of their outdoor games in 2013-14 and miss the playoffs by three points, how unhappy do you think they'll be?
That's all that kept the Winnipeg Jets out of the postseason last year. It took a tiebreaker to put the Minnesota Wild in over the Columbus Blue Jackets. We're speaking strictly hypothetically here, but what if the Wild had played in two outdoor games and lost them in part due to weather conditions?
Just something to keep in mind while you're watching the advertising spectacle that these outdoor games have become every three weeks from January through March.