SBD/January 27, 2014/Events and Attractions

Sun Glare, Ice Conditions Put Damper On Rangers-Devils Game At Yankee Stadium

Choppy ice conditions contributed to several stoppages of play during the game
Yesterday's Rangers-Devils NHL Coors Light Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium was scheduled to start at 1:02pm ET, but the "puck didn’t drop until 1:41 p.m., the sun reflecting off the ice to create a situation the league said would have jeopardized player safety," according to Brett Cyrgalis of the N.Y. POST. Devils G Martin Brodeur said, "There's no way we could have played. It was so bright, and even for the quality of the ice -- even though it was the worst ice I’ve ever played hockey on -- you went from the shadow to the sun, it was almost a 10-degree difference. It was unbelievable." Cyrgalis writes the ice "was shockingly bad, with the officiating crew often having to stop and fix holes with surrounding snow." Part of the "intrigue of playing NHL games outdoors is having to factor in the weather, but not quite like this" (N.Y. POST, 1/27). Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist said, "I was out there when the sun was still out, and it was hard to see." In N.Y., Pat Pickens notes snow flurries "began as the second period did." The Rangers, who "practiced amid snowfall at the Stadium on Saturday, said that experience benefited them." But the snow "led the league to cancel a performance by the Rockettes scheduled for the second intermission," and the third period "was marred by chipped ice." Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said, "I was surprised by the condition of the ice. You’d think that a day like this, where it’s below-zero Celsius, so below-32 Fahrenheit, that you’re talking about ideal conditions." Pickens notes an "announced crowd of 50,105" was on hand for the game (N.Y. TIMES, 1/27). Also in N.Y., Jeff Klein notes play was "held up twice in the first period for ice repairs, and the puck bounced constantly, with players struggling to control it" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/27).

DIMINISHING RETURNS? SI.com's Sarah Kwak writes, "Herein lies the problem with games like these. There are so many unknown factors that sit outside the control of the players and the coaches. So while some wondered if this year's glut of outdoor games might dilute the special quality of these spectacles, I wonder if the spectacle is really worth the diluted hockey." For "one game a season, maybe even for two, sure, it's worth it." The Winter Classic "generates huge interest, massive profits, and holds some tradition, but when all is said and done of this Stadium Series, the NHL will have put on six outdoor games this season -- six occasions to talk about weather and wind and a whole manner of things that shouldn't have any bearing on regular season hockey." Six occasions to "watch relatively subpar hockey games." Yesterday's game "lacked charm." Or perhaps, it "lacked significance." The league "really shouldn't sacrifice the quality of the game for the pageantry of the show" (SI.com, 1/27). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes Yankee Stadium yesterday was "not a particularly intense atmosphere, because the fans aren't sitting close enough to the rink." While the Stadium Series is "a fine novelty event, the league may be stretching its luck a bit this season" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/27). But in N.Y., Larry Brooks writes the NHL's administration "that so often trips over itself has gotten this right." The league office has "seized the moment and turned what can be the grind of January into a spectacle" (N.Y. POST, 1/27). Devils President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello said, "I was very apprehensive when they first started these, but what it’s done for the game and to hear the enjoyment that the players and the fans have had, I've turned the page on it. I think it’s something healthy" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 1/27). ESPN’s Bob Ley said outdoor games at big stadiums are the NHL's "most effective marketing tool" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/26). 

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS: YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Cotsonika wrote the NHL has "dreamed so big that it has pushed the limits of sales and logistics to levels we have never seen before -- and won’t see again, at least in the near future." NHL COO John Collins said the NHL will "definitely not" have six outdoor games next season. Cotsonika notes this season "was always going to be a special case." The league "wanted to continue the momentum" following the '12-13 lockout and "boost revenue" in '13-14. It wanted to "take advantage of the Super Bowl in the New York area." The NHL also wanted "to lead into the Sochi Olympics -- and lead out of them" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/26). ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote there is "no doubt that the All-Star Game has grown stale, but there’s potential for revival there." Custance: "I like the idea of an outdoor game and I think the All-Star Game would give the league an opportunity to hit some nontraditional spots because you don’t necessarily need to draw a huge crowd for it the way they do for the Winter Classic." The All-Star Game gives the NHL "a platform and weekend to cultivate relationships with some of its biggest sponsors and partners." An outdoor game in a warm weather city "would be perfect for that" (ESPN.com, 1/24). In San Jose, David Pollak reported the Sharks "want to bring outdoor hockey to the Bay Area." The team is "looking at three possible sites for an outdoor game: AT&T Park in San Francisco, Stanford Stadium on the university's campus or Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/25). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "There are no shortages of requests. Every team in every climate has asked for this event" (“Ducks-Kings,” NHL Network, 1/25).

ROAD TO PROSPERITY: The N.Y. TIMES' Klein noted the Rangers have been "designated the road team" for both their games at Yankee Stadium, "even though their opponents, the Devils and the Islanders, come from outside New York City." The reason "seems to lie in the special exemption that has freed Madison Square Garden from paying property taxes since 1982." A provision of that agreement "stipulates that if the Rangers or the Knicks play a home game outside the Garden, the exemption is forfeited." The city’s Independent Budget Office last fall said that the "exemption was worth" $17.3M in FY '14. There are other "unrelated benefits to declaring the Rangers visitors for both games." The NHL "saves money by designating them the road team." The league "controls the staging and revenue of the outdoor games it organizes, and therefore reimburses the home team for a lost date at its regular arena." Because the Rangers "always sell out Madison Square Garden at substantially higher ticket prices than the Devils charge at Prudential Center or the Islanders charge at Nassau Coliseum, reimbursing the Rangers for a lost home date would cost the NHL substantially more money." Some estimates show that the league "saves more than" $1M per game by "reimbursing the Devils or the Islanders for a lost home date rather than the Rangers." But "preserving the Garden’s tax exemption involves far more money" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/25).
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