The NHL Comes to Yankee Stadium

John Santamaria

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By: John Santamaria and Mike Cerullo

The cold temperatures outside might not be the usual conditions to visiting Yankee Stadium in late January but the home of the New York Yankees opened its doors for the NHL this past week.  Yankee Stadium was host for the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series as the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and New Jersey Devils took the game of hockey outdoors. The conditions outside were not what fans and the players might not be used to but it led to a memorable experience for everyone involved.

The concept behind the recent string of outdoor games started back in 2003, when the NHL created the Heritage Classic, which featured two Canadian teams playing against one another; however, the concept didn’t pick up again until after the NHL canceled the 2004-2005 season.  As a way to not only bring fans back, but also to improve the sport financially, the first ever Winter Classic was held on New Year’s Day in 2008, where the Pittsburgh Penguins were pitted against the Buffalo Sabres with a record crowd of 71,217 in attendance at Ralph Wilson Stadium home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.  Spurred by the record crowd, it has become a tradition in the National Hockey League, with the game being played every year on New Year’s Day.

The Coors Light Stadium Series games were created in 2014 as a way to give teams who may not have the climate or atmosphere to host an outdoor game. In addition to Yankee Stadium, the first outdoor hockey game west of the Mississippi River took place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. More games are scheduled for this year, including a marquee matchup in Chicago between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins, followed by another game in Canada next month. With both Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium, the games have allowed all three major Metropolitan teams a way to give back to their fan base as well as to promote the sport throughout the country.

Both New York games have had great success, with crowds over 50,000 and high television ratings on NBC and NBC Sports Network.  The success of both games is also giving rise for the possibility of future Stadium Series games in the area, including MetLife Stadium and Citi Field as potential hosts in 2015 and beyond. While the Rangers might have been the winning team in both games on the Yankee Stadium ice, bringing the outdoor hockey experience to Yankee Stadium was a win for the NHL and its fans to appreciate the great game of hockey.

In addition to his role as Senior Consultant for The Campus Slate, John Santamaria also is a writer for The Checking Line- New York Islanders, a blog that covers the team throughout the year. He reported on the Stadium Series game between the Islanders and Rangers and you can read his report from the blog here to see more of the Yankee Stadium experience.

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