Tonight, under the lights of Yankee Stadium, the New York Rangers and New York Islanders will stage a Battle of the Empire State the likes of which have not been seen before . . . unless you watched the Rangers-Devils game Sunday afternoon.
In nothing short of a grand apology two lockouts in less than a decade, the NHL announced the Coors Light Stadium Series of outdoor hockey games during the offseason. The dramatic move bumped the league’s total of outside contests to 6, including the Classics Winter and Heritage. Like a giant diamond ring and a dozen of roses, the tactic worked. Fans and media went from bashing the league to praising it for delivering more of something awesome and these outdoor games are awesome. Just look at the spectacles we have already seen.
The Winter Classic was played between two Original Six teams in front of a hundred thousand people with snowing falling the entire time. Postcard? Try billboard. The Anaheim Ducks may have smacked the Los Angeles Kings down 3-0, but Dodger Stadium and KISS made the game feel playoff special. The aforementioned New Jersey/New York game in mythical (namesake only) Yankee Stadium? Also wondrous with the falling snow and great backdrop. These games have gone from risky experiments to pure greatness. And there’s still three more this year!
But will they remain as special and cool if the NHL overdoes it?
If you pitched the Islanders and Rangers playing in Yankee Stadium, wouldn’t you be doing so for the New Year’s Day spot and not the last Wednesday of January? This game, filled with stars both current and rising, should have a bigger stage than this. Not only that, but the ‘wow factor’ of seeing a ice rink on one of baseball’s most hallowed fields is gone. That came and went days ago. This game, despite the good matchup and great venue, is spoiled.
The NHL may be going too far here. Word the street is the league is looking to have at least four outdoor games next season. Opponents and participates forthcoming, but four games on the heels of a year with six? That is too many. The more the NHL dabbles in the elements, the more it takes away from its premier spotlight; the Winter Classic. Yankee Stadium being used twice in late January is tragic. Same goes for Soldier Field, a football church.
The league needs to apply the ‘less is more’ motto here and scale the number of yearly outdoor games to two. That way teams and stadiums will not be wasted for the sake of saying, “Sorry we shut the game down last year.”
Wasted, like Yankee Stadium hosting the Rangers and Islanders will be on NBCSN Rivalry Night. Not exactly the Winter Classic is it?
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