NHL outdoor hockey used to be a special year limited to New Years Day. But now it happens multiple times a year, and is happening three times in the span of a week in the media capitals of America. This stretch started on Jan. 25 in Dodger Stadium, as the Anaheim Ducks shut out the Los Angeles Kings by 3-0 -- and now it is Yankee Stadium's turn to play hockey in much colder outdoor climates.
The Ducks and Kings played in over 60 degree weather at Dodger Stadium, yet the ice still held up. It held up better for the Ducks, who continue to soar with the most points in the NHL. The Kings are still stuck in third place in the Pacific Division, and are now 19 points behind the Ducks for first after this loss.
Jonas Hiller shut Los Angeles down with 36 saves, as Anaheim only really needed goals from Corey Perry and Matt Beleskey in the first period. While playing outdoors in Southern California hardly qualifies as a "Winter Classic" kind of setting, it is still the home of three top Western Conference contenders, with the Ducks standing alone as the best in the NHL.
In contrast, the New York area has three teams playing two games in cold Yankee Stadium this week, although none of them are true contenders. The New York Rangers will play the New Jersey Devils at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 26, three days before the New York Islanders play the Rangers outdoors in prime time.
Temperatures will be very low for those two games -- perhaps even colder than the other big outdoor event in the New York area next week. But while there will be huge controversy if the NFL's Super Bowl is held in freezing weather at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, the NHL is far less timid about playing outside in such conditions.
Nevertheless, the NHL would never hold the Stanley Cup Finals outdoors, despite how popular these games have become. Yet their popularity has now gone as far as California, just like hockey in general in the last 20 years.