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NHL Teams Consider Hosting Home Games Outdoors in 2020-21

Photo by Dave Sandford

NHL Teams Consider Hosting Home Games Outdoors in 2020-21

The National Hockey League has not yet come up with a schedule for the 2020-21 season, nor does it have a set starting date, or official division re-alignments yet. It does, however, have 32 team owners who have seen their respective clubs lose out on revenue based solely on keeping their arena doors closed.

Whenever the topic of money arises, sensitivity and feelings become pushed right to the front. Whether its a personal slight at a used-car dealership in a trade-in valuation, a last-minute offer alteration on an already agreed-upon price in a Kjiji deal, or working out financing options on a new winter off-roading toy, the second that ‘money’ comes into the fold, its becomes personal.

Over the past number of weeks, the NHL, the NHLPA, the NHL’s Board of Governors, the NHL team owners and the NHL’s Return to Play Committee have been in heavy discussion surrounding money. Money lost due to the pandemic, money gained off of the players’ agreement to reduce their salaries for next season, as well as the financial stability of hosting a full season without fans in attendance at arenas.

As a way of beginning to combat the losses, the NHL has recently released its Adidas Reverse Retro sweaters, which bring images, logos and colours from past years/iterations of current NHL teams and combine them with recent sweater styles for another ‘alternate’ uniform that will be worn in select games during the 2020-21 season. On top of each team’s already released ‘thirds’, this sweater serves as a sales gimmick for the NHL and the NHL Shop as away of earning back some of the revenue lost in having zero fans in attendance during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Without ticket sales, vendor sales or food/drink purchases throughout arenas, NHL owners will look at roughly $1 million in losses for each home game hosted in that matter.

In another attempt to help balance some of those proposed monetary losses, a number of teams are reportedly considering hosting outdoor contests as a way of getting some ticket sales and fans through the gates. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings are four teams that have considering playing all 2020-21 home games outdoors. Yes, that is the Ducks and Kings of Southern California, where temperatures average roughly 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit from January through April, and then 70-75 degrees in May to July.

Teams were asked to reveal interest in hosting any outdoor contests during the November 12 Board of Governors call. With responses varying, based on both COVID-19 protocol restrictions, football scheduling conflicts and local size-of-gathering numbers limitations, a number of teams – including each Canadian market – have said the idea will not work in their respective cities.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, in addition to Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles and Anaheim’s hope of playing its regular season home games outdoors, four other teams have interest in hosting ‘some’ outdoor contests in the coming season, including: Carolina, Dallas, Nashville and Florida… yes, Florida.

On top of the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maples Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, the U.S. based teams not interested or not able to host outdoor games include: Buffalo, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Washington, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York Islanders and the New York Rangers.

With the cost of playing an outdoor games rather high, not to mention hosting an outdoor game, or continually maintaining ice to host outdoor games regularly, many team owners still believe the venture would turn a profit. Unfortunately for Manitobans, the closest thing to an outdoor game for the Jets this season will be the walk across the slippery tarmac at the Winnipeg James A. Richardson International Airport.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com.

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