The real fun might not be seeing the LA Kings against rival Anaheim Ducks in Chavez Ravine but instead those poor workers and Zamboni drivers trying to keep the ice from melting on a potentially hot LA day. That’s what first came to mind when the NHL today announced the Jan 25, 2014, game as part of its expanded outdoor schedule last year. The Stadium Series as it’s now called was spawned by the successful annual Winter Classic game on New Year’s Day, which has boosted awareness of the sport, and provided NBC a killer TV alternative to college bowl game blowouts. Toronto plays Chicago at Soldier Field on March 1, and other matchups are to be announced including likely Yankee Stadium games featuring the NY Rangers, NY Islanders and NJ Devils.
We wonder though if anybody in the league office ever asked the players about these extra outdoor games? These are regular-season affairs, which players play for their salaries — and the issue of poor playing conditions almost always comes up. That’s even true in cold-weather venues like Fenway Park or Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, where previous Winter Classics have been played. Technology is advancing on the ice-rink front, certainly, but trying to skate on the equivalent of a regulation-size Icee or a goalie being asked to stop a 100-plus-mph puck in a snowstorm can’t be boilerplate language in collective bargaining contracts. Poor conditions lead to poor games, which can led to poor ratings and injuries, it seems.
Meanwhile, the Winter Classic didn’t happen this year thanks to the lockout; the scrapped Detroit-Toronto game at University of Michigan’s football stadium is now set for New Year’s Day 2014, with more than 100,000 expected in Ann Arbor.