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5 Questions NHL Needs to Address Before Having Game at Dodger Stadium

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The NHL hasn’t even concluded its shortened 2012-2013 season, but the league is already making some big plans for next year.

The league recently announced the date, location and teams for the 2014 Winter Classic. Next season, the 2014 Winter Classic will take place at the Big House in Ann Arbor, MI on New Year’s Day with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. The two teams were originally scheduled to square off at this year’s Winter Classic, but this was scrapped because of the lockout.

It’s a good call having Detroit and Toronto in the big outdoor game. Besides both teams being a part of the Original Six, they’re two of the most popular organizations with huge fan followings. The game is expected to draw more than 100,000 fans, which is great for a league recovering from the recent lockout. But, the NHL may be planning even more outdoor games next season.

Up in Canada, the Heritage Classic is expected to make its return with Vancouver and Edmonton participating. Again, not a bad decision. Vancouver has solid attendance numbers, but that doesn’t really matter because any outdoor game in the Great White North will bring in a huge amount of fans.

But, the NHL could also have outdoor games in a couple of other cities, including New York and L.A. And, that’s where the league could run into a problem, especially with an outdoor game in L.A.

Here are five questions the NHL should ask before having having an outdoor game in Los Angeles.

5. Can Hockey Fans Sell Out Dodger Stadium?

The outdoor game in L.A., rumored to be between The Kings and Anaheim Ducks, would be held at Dodger Stadium. While L.A. is a major market, it’s not exactly known as a hockey town. The Kings are 13th in attendance, while The Ducks are 25th. While the uniqueness of the game is a huge selling point, the two L.A.-area teams aren’t big draws. The last thing that the NHL needs is one of their marquee events not being a sellout, or at least met with indifference from locals.

4. Will Hockey Fans Tune In?

If the NHL isn’t a big deal in the City of Angels, then what makes the NHL believe that the rest of the country and Canada will care about the game, even if it’s an outdoor game? I can easily see hockey purists not tuning in to catch this game.

3. Will Fans Get Tired of All the Outdoor Games?

What makes the Winter Classic such an awesome event is how special and unique it is. But with the possibility of multiple outdoor games, it doesn’t seem so special anymore. One or two games is one thing, but four or five is another. The league should be asking themselves if multiple games do take place, will fans get tired of the gimmick? Especially considering that the league not only has to recover fans from the recent lockout, but also because they have to compete with the Winter Olympics next season as well.

2. Will the Weather Be a Concern?

Unlike the Midwest, Northeast or Canada, L.A. isn’t known for their cold winters. Having an outdoor hockey game will need some assistance from Mother Nature, even if it will be played at night. If it’s too warm, the conditions won’t be favorable for an ice hockey game. Sure, there are ways to keep the ice intact, but that’s a lot of work for the crew, remember back in 1991 when the The Kings and New York Rangers had that exhibition game in Vegas? It’s probably most memorable for the ice being overrun by grasshoppers. The NHL wouldn’t want to have a situation like that again. So, would it really be worth the effort?

1. Isn’t There Another West Coast City Better Suited for an Outdoor Game?

If the NHL insists on having several outdoor games, isn’t there a better city equipped for an outdoor game? I get that the league would like one on the East, Midwest, West, and Canada, that seems fair. But there has to be another city out west that can handle this sort of hockey event, meaning a city with hockey fans and compatible weather. Vancouver comes to mind, but the Heritage Classic may be held there. Denver has the weather, but The Avalanche doesn’t have great attendance numbers. The easiest thing to do would be having a Cali team head to Vancouver and move the Heritage Classic to another Canadian city.

Overall, the league should stop trying to spread themselves thin and just keep the one Winter Classic and one Heritage Classic. There would be less concerns if they stick to what’s been working. But, Gary Bettman’s persistence on pushing the game in less-traditional markets makes this game at Dodger Stadium seem like a reality. A reality that could be more harmful than helpful for the NHL.

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