The NHL Winter Classic takes place Wednesday, providing us the subtle reminder that 2020 is here and this year went by way too fast.
While those sad realities hit us, there’s one good realization regarding the Winter Classic: It features new teams that have never played in the event before. The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators will play at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, which should be awesome.
Getting a fresh perspective in these stadium-type games is fantastic for the league. No disrespect to the Original Six, or the Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins, but giving the same teams a marquee national platform every year gets boring.
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Keeping this fresh perspective would be great every year if the NHL could make it happen. Even the Stadium Series (taking place Feb. 15 between the Kings and Avalanche in Colorado Springs) could always use a facelift.
Here are some teams that should get some consideration for an outdoor game in the future.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers have long wanted an outdoor game, primarily in the state of Florida. There might be talk of a Panthers-Lightning matchup in the coming years. Here’s a radical idea, though: Why can’t the Panthers play outside of Florida? Is it really unrealistic to have one team not play in the same geographical region? It doesn’t make sense. This is an ideal time to get the Panthers involved, too, since they’re good now.
Vegas Golden Knights: It’s almost blasphemous that the NHL hasn’t capitalized on the Golden Knights’ rise to stardom. A game could be in the cards with Allegiant Stadium opening next year, but how cool would it be to see Vegas in an outdoor game? Here’s my moneymaker idea: Vegas vs. Seattle at T-Mobile Park (it’s still Safeco Field to me) during Seattle’s inaugural season. Make it happen, Gary Bettman.
Carolina Hurricanes: I would not be opposed to seeing the Storm Surge in, say, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Canes are on the rise after their Eastern Conference Final appearance last season. They have a lot of young talent that could appeal to the audience. And did I mention the Storm Surge? We need a stadium-sized Storm Surge because humanity depends on it.
New York Islanders: Would you believe the Islanders have only played one outdoor/stadium game? The Rangers have played four. That seems a bit lopsided. Who wouldn’t love to see Barry Trotz lose all use of his senses coaching in the freezing cold? Someone would have to tell Trotz to stay hydrated, though, but the Islanders are very deserving of a game like this.
San Jose Sharks: I know that, right now, it wouldn’t be an ideal situation to air the Sharks on national TV but think of a game at Levi’s Stadium. The slim chance that ice conditions could outduel the longevity of that atrocious grass field is all I’d be interested in. If that means the Sharks get to play in the game, so be it.
Devils at Islanders: I’m almost tempted to take the underdog here, because by the grace of divine intervention, the Devils are actually playing well since trading Taylor Hall. Yet, the Isles are at Nassau for this one. If it was Barclays, I’d take New Jersey. ISLANDERS
Lightning at Senators: Tampa Bay has won three straight entering Monday, which could mean good times are finally ahead for the Lightning. They may need more of these winnable games to keep things in the upward trajectory. LIGHTNING
Panthers at Penguins: This game will conclude a four-game road trip for Florida, who have won five of six heading into its New Year’s Eve game at Columbus. It’s a second game of a back-to-back for the Panthers, but they look very good to take this type of action on. PANTHERS
Last week: 3-0
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