While the bottom-line logistics would make it unlikely, four NHL teams have looked into the possibility of playing 2020-21 NHL regular season games outdoors, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Friedman identified the four teams as: the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kings first to look into outdoor games for 2020-21 NHL season
Friedman reports that the Kings were the first team to give outdoor regular-season games a real look for the 2020-21 NHL season. That’s an advantage a team has when it’s owned by a larger management group. Anschutz Entertainment Group owns Dignity Health Sports Park, home of the MLS’ L.A. Galaxy. That arena seats as many as 27,000 fans.
As the NHL and NHLPA slowly grind toward a 2020-21 season, one point that keeps popping up is that this league is more dependent on box office revenue than other larger sports leagues. That’s a problem, as typical NHL games involve an indoor setting. (Early research indicates that COVID is less likely to spread outdoors.)
In an outdoor setting, you’d likely be able to safely seat more fans. At minimum, it’s an idea worth exploring. The Kings even reached out to the Ducks about the idea, according to Friedman.
Bruins at Fenway, Penguins at Heinz Field or PNC Park? Unlikely, but ideas explored
Of the ideas Friedman laid out, the Bruins’ and Penguins’ possibilities might be the splashiest.
(Though maybe Dignity Health Sports Park is getting underrated here? Sorry, if so …)
Friedman reports that while it’s an “exploratory phase,” there was mention of Fenway Park for Bruins games. Similarly, Heinz Field and PNC Park were floated for the Penguins, although the Steelers might be a hurdle for Heinz Field games.
Again, multiple outdoor games seem unlikely for much of 2020-21 NHL season
To reiterate, Friedman opened his report by calling this a “longshot.”
After all, running outdoor NHL games can be very expensive. Even in the likely event that more fans would be allowed to attend outdoor NHL games than indoor ones, would it be enough to make up for the costs of running such events? That’s a tough sell.
Still … it would be a pretty cool way to try to make some lemonade out of lemons, maybe. If it was safe. But the numbers might not add up.
Earlier on in the process of trying to get the 2020-21 NHL season up and running, there were rumblings about starting it outdoors. While that may not be out of the realm of possibility, it seems less feasible, too. With NHL – NHLPA negotiations going slowly, we might be looking at a scrambly turnaround. Starting things outdoors would add even more moving parts to an already challenging juggling act.
Overall: give credit to NHL teams for at least looking into the idea of playing regular season games — possibly multiple ones — outdoors in 2020-21.
For more, read Friedman’s piece at Sportsnet.