CHICAGO – The alfresco NHL is officially returning to Chicago. The League announced Wednesday that the Pittsburgh Penguins will play the Chicago Blackhawks outdoors March 1, 2014, at Soldier Field at 8 p.m. ( Ticket information is here .)
“We had a great experience with Wrigley,” NHL chief operating officer John Collins said, referring to the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. “The ability to bring the Penguins into Solider Field, another one of those iconic venues in Chicago, I think is just going to create an awful lot of enthusiasm and sets up to be just a fantastic event for us.”
But there’s more, and there’s more to it.
The NHL has already announced the Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium.
The League is expected to announce four more outdoor games. Penguins-Blackhawks will be part of the “Stadium Series” along with the Anaheim Ducks vs. the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 25 at Dodger Stadium, the New York Rangers vs. the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 26 at Yankee Stadium and the Rangers vs. the New York Islanders on Jan. 29 at Yankee Stadium. The Heritage Classic will feature the Ottawa Senators vs. Vancouver Canucks on March 2 at B.C. Place.
Though the NHL has never staged more than two outdoor games in one season before, it has reasons to stage six next season – and it goes beyond high demand among teams and fans. The League wants to go hard in its first full season after the lockout. It wants to capitalize on the hoopla leading up to the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
Assuming the League goes to the Sochi Olympics, it wants to give TV partners NBC and CBC something to promote during the Games and something that will excite fans about the restart of the regular season.
This is a unique situation and doesn’t necessarily mean the NHL will stage six outdoor games every season.
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