Shortly after the Washington Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in an outdoor game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the NHL made it known that they plan to hold more outdoor games at United States service academies in the future.
Specifically, the NHL has expressed their interest in holding future outdoor hockey games at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Army’s West Point.
Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, spoke about the idea with the Associated Press.
“It’s unique and as we continue to move forward with the outdoor games, you look for new concepts and new themes and new things that’ll interest the fans. Certainly the hope is, with a successful game (at Navy), we’ll continue the venture with the Army and the Air Force and we’ll see where we go from there.”
No timelines were given, but Daly did say he’d like to see a “sequel” to the game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium played as early as the 2018-19 season or the 2019-20 season. Though no specific teams were discussed, it’d be shocking to see a game held at Army’s West Point without the Vegas Golden Knight due to their close affiliation through owner and West Point graduate Bill Foley.
The NHL may be on to something here. Hockey fans are growing tired of outdoor hockey games (the Capitals-Leafs game was the 24th outdoor contest the league has hosted), but they’ll keep watching if unique and interesting venues are selected. The novelty of watching hockey out in the elements may be wearing off, but seeing hockey in unexpected and fun locations will keep fans tuning in.
Is the NHL worried or concerned about holding league events at U.S. military locations when Canada is also home to several teams? That’s a point Daly also addressed.
“I think North American forces are united. I think there’s a real appreciation for the military wherever you are, north or south of the border. While it was something we certainly thought about, it certainly hasn’t been something that’s been an obstacle at all.”
The NHL needs to get creative with their outdoor offerings. Holding games at service academies is a fun idea, but they’ll need to keep innovating in order to keep things fresh. Outdoor game fatigue can only be combated with new teams, new locations and original ideas.