Since its inception, the Winter Classic has quickly become the biggest regular season event on the NHL calender. The NHL will expand upon that with the Stadium Series and Heritage Classic, bringing the total number of outdoor NHL games in 2014 to six.
That’s led to concerns that the concept of an outdoor game might grow stale, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman thinks otherwise.
“First of all, it’s six games out of twelve hundred and thirty regular season games,” Bettman said, according to LA Kings Insider. “Two, when you go to one of these games, if you haven’t been to one and you see what’s here, the reaction of the fans, the intensity, the emotion, the excitement is off the charts, and what we’re hearing from our fans and from our clubs and from the markets in which we play is they can’t get enough of these.”
Bettman also pointed out that franchises don’t want to have to wait a decade or more between outdoor games, not to mention the teams that haven’t gotten an opportunity to participate in one yet. That includes the contest between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 25. If all goes well in that game, then it could be the first of many outdoor contests in nontraditional hockey markets.
Of course, that’s not the only hot-button issue in the NHL right now. There’s also been growing speculation about the possibility that the league will expand in the near future. Two strong candidates seem to be Seattle and Quebec City.
“It’s great to know that there’s lots of interest in having teams in places where there aren’t,” Bettman said. “But as we stand here today, it’s nothing we’re pursuing right now in any sort of organized way.”
Markham has also been brought up as a potential site for relocation in the future as there is a push to build an NHL-caliber arena there. But could the Toronto Maple Leafs theoretically veto Markham getting a team? Bettman said it would come down to a majority vote.
NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.
The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.
Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.
After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.
Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.
As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.
The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Although Connor McDavid‘s NHL career has only just gotten started, is he already the league’s most important player? (Sportsnet)
While we’re on the subject of McDavid, what should we expect from him for the remainder of his rookie campaign? (NHL Numbers)
Jack Jablonski was paralyzed on Dec. 30, 2011 at the age of 16 while playing high school hockey, but that hasn’t ended his pursuit of a career in hockey. He’s spent the last two years hosting a weekly hockey-talk radio program and has now joined the Los Angeles Kings as a communications intern. (Orange County Register)
Arizona State has earned its first NCAA victory. (Arizona Republic)
The 2015 Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs got their rings. (LA Kings Insider)
The Anaheim Ducks and the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave 13-year-old Kai Quinonez, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia four years ago, a tremendous experience. (Orange County Register)