Curiosity surrounding increase in NHL outdoor games

Curiosity surrounding increase in NHL outdoor games
January 27, 2014, 7:15 pm
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. – As one would expect, Claude Julien and New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano spent part of the last couple of days chatting about coaching an outdoor NHL hockey game. Julien and Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau are the only two NHL coaches with multiple wins in the outdoor games that have grown in popularity over the last couple of seasons, and he learned plenty in his time behind the bench for the Heritage Classic and Winter Classic.

“Both times I thought it was really important for the players to soak in the environment because it really was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Julien. “But once that puck is dropped everybody reels back into it being a real game. I don’t think you really need to focus all that much when it comes to the practice day, and instead it’s important to enjoy it.”

Capuano is getting ready to lead his Islanders team onto the ice Stadium Series ice for a date at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, and those will lead to a March 1 date between the Blackhawks and Penguins at Soldier Field, and then the Canucks and Senators tangling at Vancouver’s BC Place.

The first two stadium series games drew more than 50,000 people to watch the spectacle in Los Angeles and New York City, and were rousing success stories for the league and the franchises involved.

“The first two games of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series – played on two coasts, under two wild extremes of climate – provided all the best elements our sport can offer our fans,” Bettman said in a statement.

“Within 16 hours, two of the most-revered venues in sports welcomed more than 100,000 fans to sit under the sky and enjoy two of the fiercest rivalries in the National Hockey League. The games were spectacular, the images were unforgettable and the sheer energy our sport creates was unmistakable. This truly was a remarkable weekend for our fans and our league.”

The proliferation of outdoor games also begs the question of “how much is too much?”

It’s a fine line between maximizing a popular, profitable product, and potentially taking away from the novelty and picturesque uniqueness of the Jan. 1 Winter Classic, and it’s something many around the league are wondering about.

“Time will tell whether the [idea of outdoor games] wears itself out, but right now they’re selling out the buildings,” said Julien. “People seem to enjoy it. Will it lose the uniqueness of the New Year’s Day [game]? I don’t know. Right now I don’t have the answer.

“But I think everybody that’s had those outdoor games has been really happy with the outcome.”

With all that being said, here is some more evidence pointing to the overwhelming popularity of the outdoor games even as more of them are cropping up.:

* The Devils-Rangers game drew a 1.6 overnight rating on NBC, a record on the network for a regular-season NHL game (excluding regionals and Winter Classics).

* The game also drew a 5.1 rating in New York, the highest-ever rating in the New York market for a regular-season NHL game on NBC and tied for the best New York game ever (with Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final).

* NBC was the No. 1 network in the New York market within the 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. ET time period.

* Saturday’s game between the Kings and Ducks drew a 2.38 rating in Los Angeles, the highest rating ever in the L.A. market for a regular-season NHL game on NBCSN.

* From 10:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. PT, NBCSN was the No. 1 cable network in market and the No. 2 network overall.