Just imagine how excited this guy would be if the game he was about to watch had used a humongous ice surface! (PHOTO: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Three Suggestions For Livening Up Outdoor NHL Games

Horace T. Proskind has some ideas for livening up outdoor NHL gamesGuest post by Horace T. Proskind, Hollywood film producer

More outdoor NHL games are on the way. The league announced yesterday that it intends to have as many as six outdoor games on its schedule in 2014. Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field, and BC Place would join Michigan Stadium, the host site of the Winter Classic, as the venues for spectacles.

The Winter Classic, the original outdoor NHL games

You can’t even tell which part’s the hockey and which is the other assorted crap. Isn’t that exciting? (PHOTO: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s modern corporate novelty at its finest: a tiny little rink in the middle of a giant stadium with poor visibility for fans, poor conditions for players, and big ticket and merchandise sales.

It’s also clearly a good business move to have more outdoor NHL games since the league starved itself of revenue during a lockout demanded by its richest owners. I have to be honest with you here. It feels like they’re hurting the game momentarily in the hopes of helping it in the long term, a backward plan of attack if ever there were one. But that’s the lawyer-run NHL for you: always finding a longer way around when a more direct approach would work just fine. (There certainly are a lot more billable hours that way.)

The way I see it, if you’re going to sacrifice all the things that make a professional hockey game a professional hockey game in order to create an “experience,” you might as well go all-out. With that in mind, here are three sure-fire ways to spice up these outdoor NHL games.


Play on a larger surface

You’ve already tossed out one of the primary things that has allowed professional hockey to flourish – the controlled environment. Why not go a step further and expand the playing surface, too? You could go with the international-sized rink that foreign-born NHLers grew up on…if you’re timid. The bold decision would be to make the entire ground level of the stadium the playing surface. If nothing else the game won’t look like old-time tabletop hockey to the tens of thousands of spectators.

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No more line changes, also known as “the Sergei Kostitsyn Rule.” (PHOTO: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

No more line changes

Playing in a controlled environment on a smooth ice surface allows a hockey game to maintain its flow. Since we’re throwing that out, why not throw out line changes too? Their role is essentially the same: to maintain the pace of the game. Just think of how exciting the game would be if the same players are required to stay on the bad ice until there’s a whistle: you’d see more penalties from tired players, which means more power plays and MORE GOALS!!!

Give the winner an automatic playoff berth

It’s already crazy to award equal points in the standings for games played under different conditions. Why not go full-crazy and give the winner of each of these outdoor NHL games an automatic playoff berth? After all, these outdoor NHL games are all about tapping into underexploited revenue streams, and the playoffs are the biggest moneymaker any NHL team has. If the right teams were to win these games you could theoretically add as many as six teams to the playoff pool each year. Put that together with the ticket sales from these outdoor games and you’ve got yourself a lot of extra revenue – maybe even enough to make up for voluntarily killing half your season.

These ideas might sound crazy. But do you know what else sounded crazy just a few short years ago? Throwing two teams of professional hockey players onto an uncertain surface in chaotic conditions and a non-exhibition format in venues designed for other sports. Just think about it.

Your pal,

Horace T. Proskind

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