Since the Winter Classic began in 2008 with a game against Pittsburgh and Buffalo in Ralph Wilson Stadium, outdoor games have been a highlight of the NHL’s schedule. However, with six outdoor games being held in 2014, two occurring in 2015, and another three slated for 2016, some have suggested that there’s been too many lately.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman isn’t in that camp. He argued that outdoor games are “far from being overdone or oversaturated,” per the Canadian Press.
There are plenty of franchises that have expressed interest in outdoor games and holding multiple ones in a single season is a way to accommodate that. It also allowed for the NHL to experiment with hosting such an event in markets that might not have gotten the Winter Classic, such as San Jose and Los Angeles.
Beyond that, it’s worth noting that not all outdoor games need to draw national attention as some of them can be more of a major event for the region itself. And at the end of the day, these games draw crowds as every outdoor game thus far has been strong from an attendance perspective.
Next season the Boston Bruins will host the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1 for the Winter Classic. The Stadium Series will feature the Minnesota Wild playing against the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium on Feb. 21 and the Detroit Red Wings battling the Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field on Feb. 27.
The New Jersey Devils have traditionally been against any player wearing the number 13, to the point where Mike Cammalleri had to switch to No. 23 after being signed to a five-year, $25 million contract last summer.
“I just showed up and No. 23 was in my stall,” Cammalleri told NJ Advance Media last year. To be fair, he didn’t ask for No. 13, but he had been wearing it since he was seven with the exception of times when it wasn’t available to him.
“Signing in New Jersey and all the respect I have for Lou [Lamoriello], that’s not a conversation you have, what number you wanted to wear,” Cammalleri explained, per the Devils’ website.
With Lou Lamoriello gone though and Ray Shero now in charge, Cammalleri took the opportunity to become the first player in New Jersey’s history to claim No. 13. Including the franchise’s time prior to being relocated, Cammalleri will become the second player after Robin Burns.
Jordin Tootoo will also switch from No. 20, which he wore last season, to his more common No. 22. That leaves 24-year-old Eric Gelinas, who wore No. 22 last season, with No. 44.
The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks will take their battle outdoors on Feb. 21 as part of the Hockey Day in America tripleheader that will be featured on NBC and NBCSN. As part of those festivities, there will be an alumni game on Feb. 20, but Chicago will have to face more than just the Wild’s veterans, per NHL.com.
Former members of the Minnesota North Stars, which moved to Dallas in 1993, will join forces with the Wild franchise that made its debut in 2000. That means that players like Hall of Famers Dino Ciccarelli and Mike Modano will participate in the contest alongside former Wild forward Andrew Brunette.
Chicago’s squad will feature Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick, and Denis Savard.
The alumni game and Stadium Series contest will both take place in the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. The two franchises have met for three consecutive years in the playoffs and are gearing up to once again compete against each other in the competitive Central Division.
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Las Vegas and Quebec City’s expansion bids have earned the attention of the NHL by getting through the first phase of the expansion process, but there’s still more hurdles they must clear in order to earn franchises.
Bill Foley, who is leading the charge to bring hockey to Vegas, announced that they’ve been asked to participate in Phase II.
“In this phase, we will be providing the League with additional information, including information about the Las Vegas market and the MGM AEG Arena being developed between Monte Carlo and New York New York,” Foley explained in a statement. “We will also be permitted access to information provided by the League that it deems important to us. We are hopeful that at the conclusion of this phase, the League will invite us to participate in Phase III.”
Quebecor has gotten the same invitation by the NHL for its Quebec City bid, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
Meanwhile, Quebecor is seeking partners to help cover the $500 million expansion fee while Poker star Daniel Negreanu would like to buy a stake in the prospective Vegas team.
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After finishing with a 30-44-8 record last season, the Maple Leafs have undergone substantial changes, but none of the decisions made were about getting back into the playoffs in the short-term. When the Maple Leafs dealt Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh, it was a clear sign that they were embracing a rebuild and its 2015-16 roster will reflects the early stages of that transition.
Toronto isn’t likely to enter the season with a lot of promising youngsters on its squad, but that will come later. For now, the Maple Leafs have signed veterans that can serve as placeholders like Shawn Matthias and P.A. Parenteau to give the top prospects time to develop properly. Matthias and Parenteau are only inked for one season and both might be traded at the deadline for picks or prospects to continue the Maple Leafs’ long-term goals.
Other veterans like Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, and Tyler Bozak might also end up being dealt either before the season or at the deadline. In addition to providing the Maple Leafs with more assets, moving them would also increase Toronto’s chances of ending up with projected 2016 top pick Auston Matthews.
Meanwhile, Toronto has undergone a massive transformation on the management side as president Brendan Shanahan is now supported by GM Lou Lamoriello and coach Mike Babcock, which provides the franchise with the experience to see this rebuild through to the end. That’s a new thing for Toronto because while the franchise has barely seen any playoff actions since the start of the salary cap era, that hasn’t previously led to the Maple Leafs fully embracing a long-term rebuilding effort.
In fact, trading Kessel is the perfect symbol of the philosophical shift, not just because of what he represented now, but also due to the context of his acquisition. When Toronto got him back in 2009 for two first-round draft picks, it was a sign that then GM Brian Burke wanted to move forward without a traditional rebuild. That didn’t work, so now a new group is trying a different, more patient approach.