If you don’t get your fill of outdoor hockey this year it’ll only be because you didn’t bother to try and find it at all. While the NHL will have the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh on January 1 and the Heritage Classic in Calgary on February 20th (with a tie-in game between the WHL Calgary Hitmen and Regina Pats) there will be yet another outdoor game coming your way this season.
The WHL Spokane Chiefs will take on the Kootenay Ice in a game at Avista Stadium on January 15th, bringing the grand total of outdoor games to be played this year to five. The NCAA will also have an outdoor game this season as well, pitting the University of Michigan against Michigan State at UM’s Big House on December 11th, a game they’re expecting to have over 100,000 fans attend.
So now the inevitable question: Is this too much of a good thing? With the NCAA having done outdoor games for a while now, and the NHL having done them since 2003 (the first Heritage Classic took place in November 2003 in Edmonton) it’s clear that the ability to do these games on a consistent basis has found a way to make things manageable to do even at the junior levels. Is this the sort of thing that will lose its luster if it’s overdone? Depends on who you talk to.
Doing these sorts of events at different levels with varying amounts of media exposure allows the fans to enjoy these things at those levels. Obviously the NHL’s two games this year will garner most of the attention because those games are happening with huge media attention. The NCAA game at the Big House will likely draw the largest crowd ever to see a single hockey game, but it’s not going to dominate the headlines the way a Sid v. Alex Winter Classic will, nor should it. To put it differently, there’s nothing wrong with the game of hockey turning a single game into a major event for the fans. Sure, folks will worry about the weather and ice quality and potentially really bad view from distant seats, but that comes with the territory.
It all boils down to having the chance to sell a lot of tickets for a single game to help make those teams a lot of money. That might not be the full motivation at the NHL level, but you better believe it is for both the WHL and the NCAA. If fans don’t mind shelling out the bucks and braving the cold, it’s something leagues will keep doing. Anyone thinking that the NHL is going to go into overkill mode by trying to do outdoor games in Texas and Florida are likely also spending their weekends shouting at clouds just to have something to yell about.
Desperate for a win and hosting the NHL-leading Washington Capitals, the Minnesota Wild be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for a second straight game.
“No Spurgeon tonight,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said this morning. “He’s not ready.”
Spurgeon has already missed one game, Tuesday’s 4-3 OT loss to Dallas. He suffered a “deep bruise” Saturday in St. Louis, and his status for this Saturday’s game against Boston is uncertain.
The Wild are also missing d-man Jonas Brodin, currently on injured reserve with a broken foot.
That’s two significant injuries on the back end, as Spurgeon and Brodin each average over 20 minutes in ice time.
In a related story, Ryan Suter played a season-high 33:15 against the Stars, while AHL call-up Mike Reilly was out there for just 12:27.
Related: Yeo was ‘disappointed’ to see Hoppy the rabbit holding a ‘YEO MUST GO’ sign
Perhaps Joel Quenneville was right to storm out of Tuesday’s press conference after expressing frustration with a disallowed goal.
On Thursday, Quenneville told reporters the NHL didn’t agree with the call made during Chicago’s 2-0 loss to San Jose — a decision in which Brandon Mashinter’s tally was wiped out, after officials judged Dennis Rasmussen had interfered with Martin Jones.
Mashinter’s disallowed goal came just days after Chicago was on the wrong end of another overturned marker. Last Thursday the ‘Hawks had one during an eventual win over Arizona, a call that sent Quenneville into histrionics on the bench.
Coach Q said storming out of Tuesday’s postgame presser was a culmination of calls going against his club, adding that the league provided a more detailed explanation of how and why these decisions are being made.
“I just think, we had a couple of occurrences in a short amount of time so obviously a little frustration there,” Quenneville said, per ESPN. “But we did speak to the league and got some [clarification] on the play.
“I just think there’s education across the board and you have a lot of people in the middle of the process making the decisions. As long as we’re getting right is what we’re looking for.”
From our friends at CSN Chicago:
Artemi Panarin will miss his second consecutive game due to illness and Corey Crawford will start when the Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars Thursday night at the United Center.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Panarin’s illness is “hopefully not long term, but he’s definitely out tonight.” Quenneville added that it’s comparable to what ailed Jonathan Toews prior to the All-Star break. Toews played through his illness for about a week but finally had to sit out the third period of the Blackhawks’ Jan. 26 game at Carolina. Toews also missed the All-Star weekend due to that illness and was suspended against Colorado on Feb. 2.
Panarin has 18 goals and 34 assists in 56 games, his 52 points by far the most among NHL rookies. Detroit’s Dylan Larkin is a distant second with 38.
This morning, Richard Panik skated in Panarin’s spot with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane.
Christian Ehrhoff has cleared waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
The Kings made the 33-year-old defenseman available yesterday. It’s expected he’ll be assigned to AHL Ontario, with 23-year-old d-man Kevin Gravel getting called up.
“Nothing wrong with Christian Ehrhoff,” coach Darryl Sutter told reporters Wednesday. “We’re not exactly world beaters here. We don’t have the best defense in the league or the best team in the league. We’re trying to get better in a hurry.”
In addition to the Ehrhoff news, goalie Peter Budaj has been added to the Kings’ roster on the NHL’s media website, meaning Jonathan Quick (reportedly “day-to-day” with an injury sustained Tuesday in Boston) could miss some time.