Could it be true? Is the NHL really considering six different outdoor games in the span of two months? It would be a heck of a way to ring in the new year. And ESPN says it's in the works.
The network reported yesterday that a series of outdoor games will take place beginning with the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 and wrapping up with the Heritage Classic on Mar. 2. And the official announcement could come in the next couple of weeks. Here's what ESPN is reporting.
Jan. 1: Maple Leafs at Red Wings (Michigan Stadium)
This one is official. The NHL announced it on April 7. We've even seen the jerseys and everything. The Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium — "The Big House" — in Ann Arbor, Mich. on New Year's Day.
Jan. 25: Ducks at Kings (Dodger Stadium)
Three weeks later, it's the most surprising outdoor game of the series. The Los Angeles Kings will apparently host the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium. A sheet of outdoor ice in southern California is a novelty, but it's doable. I believe the Rangers and Kings once played outdoors in Las Vegas.
Jan. 26: Rangers at Devils (Yankee Stadium)
A day later on the other side of the continent, the New York Rangers would play in their first of two games at Yankee Stadium — this one against the New Jersey Devils. But ESPN reports that for both games, oddly, the Rangers would play the visiting team. Not sure why that would be.
Jan. 29: Rangers at Islanders (Yankee Stadium)
In the same week, the Rangers would square off against the New York Islanders in the elements. It's likely the NHL would be looking to capitalize on the media attention given to the Super Bowl — which in 2014 takes place at MetLife Stadium in nearby New Jersey. I think this would get the job done.
Mar. 1: Penguins at Blackhawks (Soldier Field)
The next game would be more than a month later and be the first cross-conference match-up of the outdoor series. The Chicago Blackhawks would host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field as part of Hockey Weekend in America. It would be the Penguins' third appearance in an outdoor NHL game.
Mar. 2: Senators at Canucks (B.C. Place)
Finally, the series would wrap up the following day back on the west coast with the Vancouver Canucks hosting the Ottawa Senators for the third Heritage Classic at B.C. Place — just across the street from Rogers Arena. The previous two have each featured the Montreal Canadiens taking on the Edmonton Oilers (2003) and Calgary Flames (2011) with both games being staged in Alberta.
Both of these teams already have "heritage" jerseys too — the Sens' black "O" sweater and the Canucks just debuted their Millionaires jersey last month. One of the teams would have to introduce a white version though, because black and maroon wouldn't quite work together the way blue and red will for the Jan. 1 game.
Does this mean 11 new sweaters?
I doubt we'd see special uniforms for all six games, but if the NHL is looking to make each one as special as the Winter and Heritage Classics of past years, it might be necessary. I could see Anaheim sporting Mighty Ducks colors and the Kings in their Gretzky-era threads.
What about the Rangers? They already have two throwbacks — their dark blue third and the "vintage white" jersey they wore for the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia. Should they try to come up with an alternative for their games against the Devils and Islanders.
And speaking of which, the Devils already have a retro sweater — the green and red one they've worn around St. Patrick's Day in recent seasons. The Islanders? Well they're already wear throwbacks night in and night out. The only other option they have is the fisherman. And there's no way that happens.
What's left is Pittsburgh and Chicago. Both of these teams still have huge collections of past jersey designs to choose from. I know most Penguins fans will push for the early '90s Cup-era design of black and yellow. It makes sense now why they wouldn't introduce a third jersey next year — as has been reported. They'd probably just do a special outdoor jersey that could be adopted as a third in 2014.
For the Blackhawks, there are a lot of choices. Maybe something in black and white from the early, early days of their existence? All I know is there is a lot of money to be made with all of these potential jerseys. And a lot of news to cover here on Icethetics should that happen.
I'll keep an eye on it, but for now, of course, even these games are all still speculation.