NHL Addressing Challenges Of Ducks-Kings Outdoor Game In Warm L.A. Climate
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "led a group of league and team executives" to Dodger Stadium on Thursday to promote the Ducks-Kings Stadium Series game, the NHL's "first outdoor game scheduled outside a cold climate," according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. The ice at Dodger Stadium "will be covered during daylight hours and workers will do the necessary grooming" from 6:00-7:00pm PT until 6:00am or 7:00am, "when temperatures are coolest." There will be "only one rink -- no auxiliary rink, as has been built for other outdoor games." If conditions make the ice "unsafe -- unlikely because outdoor games have been played elsewhere in rain and in 60-degree temperatures -- the game would be played" the following day. Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said that he had "no fears the field might be damaged by the rink or the pipes required to keep the ice frozen." NHL COO John Collins said, "We typically have done the cold and the little rinks and sort of the iconic look of a winter festival. We've got the guys already laying out some ideas on how to fit this game into Southern California" (L.A. TIMES, 9/27).
WEATHER PATTERNS: In California, Eric Stephens notes Bettman "initially was cool to the idea of having the enormously popular and successful Winter Classic played in a warm-weather city." But NHL Senior Dir of Facilities Operations Dan Craig "convinced him it could work." Temperatures in the greater L.A. area "average around 68 degrees during January days, but the game will have a 7 p.m. start, when it is typically in the 40s and 50s at night." However, January is "one of wettest months of the year in Southern California." Bettman said of Craig, "Whatever the weather is, he will be able to put down a sheet of ice that will provide for a competitive game as he needs to." Craig and his "12-person crew will arrive with a newly built refrigeration truck and ice-making plant about two weeks before the game to lay down the ice after about 40 people will assemble the boards in a first-to-third-base layout." The plan is to have "both the Ducks and Kings practice the day before the game." Bettman also "spent a few moments taking in the panorama from the stadium’s highest point." He said, "Clearly [Walter] O’Malley was a visionary. It’s magnificent. When you’re up on the ninth level and you see the view, it’s off the charts" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/27).
THE GREAT OUTDOORS: SI's Brian Cazeneuve writes, "Given outdoor hockey's popularity and revenue-making potential, expect the league to make it an increasingly regular feature of the NHL schedule." For now there is "little reason not to add more games if the novelty of playing in the fresh air has not faded" (SI, 9/30 issue). NBC's Doc Emrick during a conference call on Thursday supported the league's addition or more outdoor games. He said, "People love these games. Other teams were waiting and waiting and now they’ve finally gotten a chance (to host). We’re going to show all of them this year and I think then we can assess, after the six are done, whether it’s watered it down or not." Emrick added, "It will be the same group of players that are playing in all of them. So the talent level will continue to be as it normally would be. And the notion of watching a game, played at Dodger Stadium or at Yankee Stadium, I think is fascinating. We might have waited a long time to ever get a game at Dodger Stadium. But now that this has been expanded a little bit, we have it" (Jillian Fay, Staff Writer).