According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman, at least four NHL teams (reportedly the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins) are currently considering playing their home games for the 2020-21 season outdoors.
Freidman said there are no guarantees but one executive told him “it is being explored.”
None of the four teams would comment. Multiple sources have said that the Kings were the first to come up with the idea. Anschutz Entertainment Group, who owns the Kings, also owns Dignity Health Sports Pick, which is just 15 minutes away from Staples Center, hosts the MLS’s LA Galaxy, and seats 27,000. The Kings pitched the idea to the Ducks, who were considering this to be a joint venture.
Local restrictions would prevent both the Kings and Ducks (in addition to the San Jose Sharks if they wished) to commit to this plan right now. Both franchises are looking to see if they could allow more fans outdoors than indoors.
California is one of the leaders in the country with around 1.27 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. Los Angeles County is the worst part of the state with over 414,000 confirmed cases.
The Bruins have talked to Massachusetts and Boston officials regarding various options. Freidman heard specific mention of Fenway Park, which hosted the 2010 NHL Winter Classic and is home to the MLB’s Boston Red Sox, and was told that is in an “explanatory phase,” but the Bruins are looking at all of their venue options.
Massachusetts currently has at least 234,000 COVID-19 cases, including 37,800 in Suffolk County (Boston area).
The Penguins have explored the idea of playing at both Heinz Field, home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, and PNC Park, home of the MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates. Heinz Field hosted the 2011 NHL Winter Classic and 2017 NHL Stadium Series. Though the Steelers are currently 11-0 this season and Heinz Field may not be an option if they play deep into the NFL postseason.
Pennsylvania currently has at least 381,000 COVID-19 cases with Allegheny County (Pittsburgh area) accounting for at least 29,500 of those.
In addition, the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, and Nashville Predators have expressed willingness to host an outdoor game next season to the NHL, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. PNC Arena is right across from Carter-Finley Field, home of NC State Wolfpack’s football team. The Hurricanes were originally scheduled to host the 2021 NHL Stadium Series at Carter-Finley Field.
The Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild, and Buffalo Sabres are among the United States-based teams to express disinterest in the idea of playing their home games outdoors. The Flyers were intrigued by the idea at first but capacity restrictions in Philadelphia were among the reasons why it does not make sense to them. The Wild were not interested since crowd restrictions in Minnesota are not significantly different between outdoor and indoor gatherings. Tampa is slated to host the Super Bowl at James Raymond Stadium on February 7.
None of the seven Canadian teams expressed interest in playing outdoors this season and one team executive told LeBrun that public health restrictions are making that extremely hard to do at the moment.
There are some obstacles that the four teams face if they want to pull this off, beginning with money. In November, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic that “It’s not likely (we’ll play more games outdoors),” as plans for the upcoming season do not “adequately take into account the costs associated.”
Another problem would be approval from players and opponents. In a survey among all of the teams, several were reluctant about the idea of switching between indoor and outdoor games during the upcoming season.
By Harrison Brown