by Dante A. Ciampaglia
Outdoor hockey has been a staple of the NHL schedule since the first Winter Classic in 2008. Since then, one game has been played outside every season. (The only exceptions: In 2011 the league hosted the Heritage Classic to go with the Winter Classic, and last season the game was canceled because of the lockout.)
But this season, the NHL has scheduled six — count 'em, six — outdoor games. There's the annual Winter Classic, the Heritage Classic, and four games that make up the new Stadium Series.
In this year's Winter Classic, the Detroit Red Wings will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on New Year's Day. The Heritage Classic will be held in Vancouver on March 2 and pit the Canucks against the Ottawa Senators. And the Stadium Series will take place all over the country: The Los Angeles Kings host the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium on January 25; a day later the New York Rangers face the New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium; Yankee Stadium then hosts a second outdoor game on January 29 when the Rangers face the New York Islanders; and the series wraps up on March 1 at Soldier Field in Chicago, when the Blackhawks welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That's a lot of outdoor hockey. Could it be too much? NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says no.
"This is an incomparable event and what happens is fans get connected to the game in ways they never imagined. We get new fans who, for the first time, will come and be a part of this," Bettman told the Canadian Press. "This is a fan-oriented, fan-driven event, and that's why we're doing so many games so we can bring it to more fans."
Check out the rest of Sports Illustrated Kids' NHL 2013 Preview on the SI Kids Blog!
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