Saturday's Ducks-Kings NHL Coors Light Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium, with a "game-time temperature that could be near 60 degrees ... a beach volleyball court set up near the rink and Gene Simmons and KISS providing entertainment," is guaranteed to be "like no other outdoor hockey game you have ever seen," according to Kevin Allen of USA TODAY. The game "has a Hollywood feel to it, with new celebrities committing to be there every day." The NHL with six Winter Classics already in the books "has enough experience in ice-making that officials have unwavering faith" in NHL Senior Dir of Facilities Operations Dan Craig's "ability to keep the ice at 24 degrees for playing purposes." NHL COO John Collins said Craig has dealt with "some 81-degree nights and he adjusted accordingly." How Ducks-Kings plays out will "affect what the NHL does with the outdoor game concept." Collins said, "I think LA is an important game to prove the concept that Dan and the ice system can give you the NHL regular-season credibility. That will open it up for what we do next. There are so many markets that are interested in a game." Collins "makes it clear that he doesn't view the California game as a one-and-done." He said, "It is reasonable to think of something in San Jose or San Francisco. It could be great, whether it is in the AT&T, or the 49ers' new place or on the Stanford campus. That would be interesting and fun. With all of the partners we have in Silicon Valley, it really [serves] the purpose of putting hockey front and center" (USA TODAY, 1/24). Hockey HOFer Wayne Gretzky said of playing an outdoor game in L.A., "It's a really big dream for me, and I know everybody's worked hard on this. ... We've seen the games in Philadelphia and Boston and Pittsburgh, and it's been wonderful. I think this is going to be very unique" ("Conan," TBS, 1/23).
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN': YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski noted Ducks-Kings will be the "first outdoor NHL game that's not going to have fake snow all over the place" and said a "lot of people didn't like the whole L.A. asthetic." Wyshynski: "I love it. I feel like if you're going to have an outdoor game somewhere, you should theme it where the place you're holding it. It's going to be a very L.A. vibe and in some ways, a celebration of West Coast hockey, which is thriving" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/23). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote, "Looking down on the Dodger Stadium field on Wednesday afternoon ... we were once again struck by the notion that 'outdoor game' is just the start in explaining these events." As "picture-perfect" as the '14 Winter Classic was, there is something "equally inspiring about this sheet of ice and the space it shares with the Dodgers’ famed interlocking 'L' and 'A,' a sand volleyball court and roller-hockey rink." Burnside asked, "What made the Winter Classic games at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park so special?" It was "the marriage of iconic locations with a different game" (ESPN.com, 1/22).
THE HEAT IS ON: Craig admitted that making the Dodger Stadium ice has "been a challenge, especially after the success" at Michigan Stadium for the Maple Leafs-Red Wings game on Jan. 1. He said, "The toughest part of this [is] Ann Arbor. I would say that was the best sheet of ice we have produced on an outdoor game anywhere and now, all of a sudden two weeks later, I’ve got to come here. So the bar is set pretty high for me" (ESPN.com, 1/22). CBS' Carter Evans said "no one is feeling the heat" in L.A. as much as Craig. With temperatures predicted to be in the low-to-mid 70s, Craig said that "if the NHL had [known] it was going to be as warm as it was, 'we wouldn't have said 80 degrees' and held the game there." But Craig said that "there has 'never' been a point where the NHL thought it would have to cancel the game." Craig: "Not a chance" ("Evening News," CBS, 1/22). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes there was "no provision to play an NHL alumni game this week, in part because the league wants to preserve the ice for the big game -- although the Kings and Ducks are scheduled to practice back-to-back on Friday, just before sunset" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/24).
YANKEE DOODLE: In N.Y., Justin Terranova writes the "highlight of the Super Bowl appetizers is the NHL invading Yankee Stadium with two outdoor games in four days" with the Rangers taking on the Devils on Sunday and the Islanders on Wednesday. NBC's Eddie Olczyk said, "It's a wow factor in my world. ... It’s an opportunity and another way for the game of hockey to sell and cross-promote and get outside, especially kicking off Super Bowl week in the right fashion." He added, "It’s a way to get our game out there, promote it, celebrate it. And it’s just not another game, it’s not an exhibition or for entertainment. These are big points for teams that are looking to move up the ladder" (N.Y. POST, 1/24).
EYE ON THE PRIZE? In Philadelphia, Al Morganti wrote under the header, "Olympics, Outdoor Games Turning Stanley Cup Into Second-Place Trophy." The Stanley Cup has "been the ultimate goal -- and that value has been tarnished as the NHL continues to sell its soul, and devalue the very trophy that has made its league and its playoffs so special." The NHL will "engage in another couple of special outdoor games at Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium." The league has added more outdoor games, which "translates into more cash." The NHL will "take a two-week break so that its best players can compete in the Olympics." Morganti: "It is agreed here that the Winter Classic in the States, and the Heritage Classic in Canada have turned into something very special." But it has "come to the point of piling up the games, and the special feeling of the game has turned into something that has nothing to do with the heritage and roots of the game, and everything to do with money" (PHILLY.com, 1/22). GRANTLAND's Sean McIndoe noted NHL fans this year "still have five more outdoor games to go." McIndoe: "Overkill? Probably. But that doesn’t mean the individual games can’t still be plenty of fun" (GRANTLAND.com, 1/23).