The National Hockey League’s Stadium Series kicks off at 6:30 PM on Saturday, January 25th. The Los Angeles Kings will host the Anaheim Ducks in an important Pacific Division showdown. Both teams actually played each other Thursday night, but what makes Saturday’s game special is the venue. The Kings and Ducks will play the first ever hockey game under the bright lights of Dodger Stadium Saturday evening. Both teams are surely feeling added pressure leading off the Stadium Series and unlike previous outdoor games the weather should be a non-factor. There is no halftime show in hockey, but the legendary rock group KISS signed on to perform before the game and during the first intermission. Speaking of legends, the “Great One”, Wayne Gretzky has been promoting this game to help draw in fans and will be honored at the game as legendary member of the Kings.
The NHL has been expanding its regular season outdoor games schedule over the past decade. The NHL Winter Classic is a welcome New Year’s Day tradition for hockey fans everywhere. Unfortunately, the Kings and Ducks game Saturday will not be broadcast on national television. That honor will go to game two in the Stadium Series between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium Sunday. Dodger Stadium is a beautiful setting for the one-of-a-kind game but might be overlooked on the NBC Sports Network, which casual fans may not have access to or even know about.
This is an interesting experiment for the NHL. It is no secret the league has had its financial problems in the past and if you look at the numbers for the recent Winter Classic, it’s easy to see the upside of stadium games. The New Year’s game set an attendance record for a hockey game with more than 105,000 people and drew more than eight million TV viewers. Clearly, there is a financial upside to the outdoor games and Saturday’s clash between the Kings and Ducks will have a lot riding it. The Stadium Series opener could be a valuable measuring stick for gauging interest in outdoor games at other warm weather venues. It’s up to the Kings and Ducks to put those matters aside and focus on simply getting a win.