Outdoor hockey and Los Angeles seem to work together like oil and water, dogs and cats, or Canadiens and Bruins. But don’t tell that to the newly installed Dodger brass who are touting their ballpark as a future site of the Winter Classic.
The new ownership group led by former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson is seeking to break away from the poor stewardship of Frank and Jamie McCourt, and improve the Dodgers image and relationship with the rest of Los Angeles.
ProHockeyTalk’s Jason Brough poked a couple of holes in a story that the LA Times initially ran with quoting LA Dodgers President Stan Kasten and Chairman Mark Walter announcing the club’s intention to explore the possibility with the NHL.
Challenges exist, but the new ownership group in LA is looking to make a splash and capitalize on the very popular New Year’s Day tradition. With the Dodgers off to a great start, the Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals and LA the center of the pop culture and entertainment in these United States, idle speculation can quickly lead to a trial balloon and then feasibility studies and then Doc Emrick is talking about palm trees visible beyond the centerfield wall after an offsides in the middle of the second period.
Below the fold, we’ll discuss the difficulties that will need to be overcome to land the Winter Classic in LA, and why it is in everyone’s interest that those hurdles get cleared.
The biggest issue is, of course, the weather. Sunny southern California rarely features snow, ice or even deep chills in the winter months. The concerns are hardly insurmountable. Bill Shaikin, Dodgers beat writer for the Times, noted there have been outdoor hockey exhibitions in warm weather cities where the ice held up.
Cold weather cities are not entirely without their risks for poor ice conditions. Notably, humidity and rain in Pittsburgh prior to the 2011 Winter Classic resulted in very poor ice.
Likewise, the NHL’s preference to hold onto that 1pm eastern time window on new Year’s Day, as reported by Brough, is not a strictly adhered to time. This year the Winter Classic got underway at 3pm eastern to better ensure good ice conditions in Philadelphia.
So it’s not out of the question. Why it works for the NHL, NBC, the Kings and the Dodgers is quite simple: money.
An extra date at Dodger Stadium results in extra revenue for the Dodgers and the Stadium vendors. Especially for a novel utilization of the facility like a hockey game.
It’s also a big splash in an area whose dominant New Year’s Day sporting event is the Rose Bowl. And the Rose Bowl surely draws some Angelenos, but it is more a celebration of and for the colleges that have earned a trip to Pasadena.
NBC will appreciate the ratings boost of people tuning in to see how they can play a hockey game in Los Angeles. Going up against the college football games that fill the other broadcast networks’ schedules with a clear alternative has proven very effective for NBC. The novelty of a game in LA would draw even better numbers.
The NHL can also look forward to the benefits of increased exposure of one of its franchises in the second largest media market in the United States. A market that does not have an NFL franchise and therefore leaves Sunday matinee dates in October, November and December free of football competition.
With these constituent groups all realizing tangible benefits, the likelihood that the 2014 or 2015 Winter Classic will set up shop in southern California is pretty high. So scoff all you want about temperature and time constraints. The improbability is what makes it must see TV.