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NHL: Expanding on the Winter Classic is a good thing for the sport

The NHL plans to have up to six outdoor ice hockey games next season, which should help build a stronger fan base for the sport, writes Gregg Patton.

The Philadelphia Flyers faced off against the Boston Bruins at the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston. Jim McIsaac / Getty Images
The Philadelphia Flyers faced off against the Boston Bruins at the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston. Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

What is better than one, heavily promoted outdoor hockey game?

Apparently the NHL believes if one spectacle each season under the open skies can be a huge success, why not go for six?

Next year's schedule, according to reports, will include half a dozen outdoor games, including one at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and two at New York's Yankee Stadium.

The initial gut reaction is that the league has developed an unhealthy addiction, like someone enjoying his ice cream sundaes way too much. But maybe not.

The sport still needs to grow its base. The Winter Classic that sprung up several years ago has always gained major, general attention, while selling out stadiums three or four times the size of its usual arenas.

A series of outdoor games – at least for a season or two – might help spread the hockey gospel in one, large blitz.

No doubt fans will pour into Dodger Stadium to see Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, just as New Yorkers will fill Yankee Stadium for two Rangers games against local rivals, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. Likewise, Pittsburgh at Chicago's Soldier Field, and Ottawa in Vancouver, should pack them in.

And how about 110,000 fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor for a Toronto Maple Leafs-Detroit Red Wings showdown?

Some day this might be too much of a good thing, but for now, it is just a good thing.

sports@thenational.ae

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