Monday, 24 November 2014, 4:56 am

Outdoor Winter Classic adds more games to season

Youths take advantage of the lasting cold weather with a game of pickup hockey at the Rink on the Brink in Niagara Falls. With the long, bitter winter this year outdoor hockey has been very popular.  Photo by Cathy McCabeBy ETHAN FAHEY
Staff Writer
Fans love the annual National Hockey League’s (NHL) outdoor Winter Classic game. Apparently they love it a lot, because the league decided to add five more outdoor games to the schedule in the 2013-2014 season.
The first regular season outdoor NHL game was the Heritage Classic in 2003 between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. The following season, the league fell into lockout procedures and there were no games played.
Five years later, outdoor NHL games made a return with the Winter Classic in 2008, one between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Every year since, excluding the shortened season in 2013, there has been at least one regular season outdoor game.
“These [outdoor games] are a ton of fun to play in,” Marc Staal, a defenceman for the New York Rangers said in an interview with NHL.com. “I could play in 50 of these in a year. It’s a lot of fun being out in that atmosphere.”
“Well, maybe not 50,” he added while smiling. “Forty.”
This year, the NHL held its now annual Winter Classic outdoor game on New Year’s Day, a game played between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings. Toronto would win the game in a thrilling shootout, 3-2. The event was held at Michigan Stadium, also known as “The Big House” in Detroit.
The league also brought back the Heritage Classic this year, which saw a contest between the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks. The Senators were victorious in the game held at BC Place in British Columbia and beat Vancouver 4-2.
In addition to these traditions, the league introduced the 2013-2014 NHL Stadium Series. The Stadium Series is exactly as it sounds. A series of four outdoor games played in stadiums across the United States.
The first matchup for the series was the Los Angeles Kings against the Anaheim Ducks. The game, in which the Ducks beat the Kings 3-0, was held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, home to the L.A. Dodgers.
Artificial ice had to be used to make sure the rink didn’t melt in such a warm climate. How warm was it there that day? There was a beach volleyball court next to the rink.
Both the second and third games in the series were played at Yankee Stadium in New York, regular home to the New York Yankees baseball club.
The first contest at the iconic stadium saw the New York Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 7-3.
 The Rangers completed the sweep and edged past the New York Islanders in the next game 2-1 three days later.
The last game in the Stadium Series was between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Probably the most anticipated game of any in the series, the Blackhawks were dominant and won the game 5-1. It was held at Soldier Field in Chicago, home to the football team, the Chicago Bears.
While most people enjoy the sports spectacles, some fans think the league may be overdoing it.
“The novelty of it all kind of wears off when there’s so many,” said Brady Culp, 20, of Fort Erie. “It’s not that big of a deal if you have one every other weekend.”
“It seems like the players really enjoy it though. And fans love to see their team play outdoors. I guess when there are more games, there’s a better chance of your team being involved.”
The only people who don’t seem to enjoy the outdoor games are the coaches. They stand frozen like statues, except when shouting a command every now and again, no doubt envying the active players that are generating body heat.
While all of the outdoor games for this season have wrapped up, the league has already confirmed at least one game next year to be played between the Washington Capitals against a currently unknown adversary.

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