NHL announces plans for three outdoor games in 2016

Image from NHL Network

Image from NHL Network

The 2016 NHL Winter Classic and two 2016 NHL Stadium Series games were announced by commissioner Gary Bettman from Columbus this afternoon.

The eighth Winter Classic will return to Boston. The third one took place in 2010 at Fenway Park. This one will happen Jan. 1, 2016 at Gillette Stadium — home of the NFL's New England Patriots, who will play the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX.

The Boston Bruins will host the Montreal Canadiens in the epic outdoor battle Icethetics concept artists have been hoping for. In fact, just two weeks ago I posted a great concept from Jamie Robertson featuring the two storied franchises. 

The NHL also announced two Stadium Series games to take place out west.

On Feb. 21, 2016, the Minnesota Wild will host their first ever outdoor game as the Chicago Blackhawks come to town. The game will be played at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus — Golden Gophers territory.

I'm a bit irked by this draw as it'll be the Hawks' third outdoor appearance in three seasons — Stadium Series in Pittsburgh (2014), Winter Classic in Washington (2015) and now the Stadium Series in Minnesota (2016) — and fourth overall since they hosted the second Winter Classic in 2009 against Detroit. Spread the love a little.

I understand TV ratings (particularly since I work in TV marketing) and what drives audiences. So I get the decision. But it would've been nice to see a team like the Blues get a shot at wearing a throwback jersey in the snow.

Six days later, on Feb. 27, 2016, the Colorado Avalanche will play in their first outdoor game as they host the Detroit Red Wings for a match at Coors Field — fitting since Coors Light remains the major sponsor of the NHL Stadium Series.

I almost want to watch the alumni game more than the main event here. Think about all the guys from that epic '90s rivalry who will take the ice again. Sure, it won't be as intense as it was back then, but it'll be fun to watch nonetheless.

All in all, six teams will play outside in 2016, but only two will be doing it for the first time — Minnesota and Colorado. Don't forget Montreal played in the original Heritage Classic in Edmonton back in 2003 and again in Calgary in 2011.

Speaking of the Heritage Classic, Bettman said at the press conference that there were plans to hold a Heritage Classic in Winnipeg in 2016. But a deal couldn't be worked out in time to nail down the stadium, so it was postponed.

It's likely the league will keep working and secure a date for the 2016-17 season. But who the Jets will play is still unknown for now. Maybe the Oilers could get back in on the action? The Maple Leafs are marking their 100th anniversary that season so they'll probably stick closer to home for any big events. Could Quebec have a new team by then? Who would you pick?

Obviously no logos have been released yet for the Winter Classic or Stadium Series games. They're probably still in the design process at this point in the calendar. I'd expect to see something in the summer.

As for jerseys, what are you expecting and/or hoping for? Send along your concepts and I'll post some in the coming weeks and months.