According to Elliotte Friedman, at least four teams are looking into the possibility of playing the entire 2021 NHL season outdoors with others also interested in the potential ability to try it.
There are significant hurdles, starting with cost. Even the most no-frills outdoor event would run into the millions. Last month, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic (via email), “It’s not likely (we’ll play more games outdoors),” as 2020-21 plans don’t “adequately take into account the costs associated.”
The other major issue would be approval from players and opponents. Apparently, a survey completed by all 31 teams indicated several would not be thrilled with the idea of switching between indoor and outdoor venues during the season.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins answered yes to the NHL’s outdoor query and are indeed exploring the possibility of playing at Fenway Park, obviously depending on state and city guidelines. And we’re not just talking one outdoor game, the Bruins, I’m told, are exploring the idea of multiple games at Fenway. They want their fans watching live hockey.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes have a football stadium across the parking lot from their arena. It’s a no-brainer for them and the club answered yes to the league. And I think the idea that the Canes have explored for a few months now is not just to play one game but a few and maybe even buy their own refrigeration system and not rely on the league’s outdoor game infrastructure.
Dallas Stars: Let’s put it this way, the Dallas Cowboys just had 30,000-plus at their Thanksgiving day game. So to nobody’s surprise, I can confirm the Stars answered yes to the league’s query. What a great venue to have an outdoor hockey game in. Heck, why just one?
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings were actually on this early, months ago telling the NHL of their idea to stage multiple games at an MLS stadium when county guidelines allow for fans to gather at outdoor venues. I think what the Kings have shared with the NHL is that they would begin the season with no fans inside Staples Center but once (if) the guidelines were loosened, they would play in front of 8,000 or so physically distanced fans for the final two months or so of the regular season. The Kings, I’m told, have also approached the nearby Ducks about playing outdoor games. But again, all this is really depending on when Southern California health authorities loosen up the guidelines for outdoor venues.
Nashville Predators: The Predators responded to the league that they would be willing to host an outdoor game if it made sense for the NHL and in fact would be willing to have multiple games and teams play out of it whether that’s in a traditional stadium or a unique setting.
Pittsburgh Penguins: As mentioned above, the Penguins have looked at the idea of maybe opening the first month or so of the season outdoors and buy some time before limited crowds can start gaining access to indoor games. There’s no guarantee that will happen this season at all, depending on the access and distribution of the vaccine over the coming year. But rest assured, the Penguins are thinking outside the box here.