NHL outdoor games in Lake Tahoe could lead others like him


The NHL Outdoors in Lake Tahoe will be a one-time event made for television, right?

This is a product of the crowd-limiting coronavirus pandemic, and the League will never again host outdoor games without fans like when the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights play in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors on Saturday, the 20th. February (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, SN1, TVAS) and the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers will play in the Honda NHL Outdoors on Sunday, February 21 (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, SN1, TVAS).


Okay, we’ll see how it goes.

“I think we’re hearing the buzz,” NHL content director Steve Mayer said Friday at Edgewater Tahoe Resort as the rink was under construction on the golf course next to the lake. “We think it’s going to be an amazing event. I think the proof will probably be later in terms of how our fans took this game, our sponsors, and how we were able to run it and pull it off to find out if we did. them in the future. “

The NHL held its first modern away game on November 22, 2003, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in the Heritage Classic in front of 57,167 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

There were no more until January 1, 2008, when the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabers 2-1 in a shootout in the Winter Classic in front of 71,217 at Ralph Wilson Stadium away from home. from Buffalo.

“From what I understand,” said Mayer, who was not working for the NHL at the time, “it looked like it could have been one and done until it elicited only response from the fans. and not just from the hockey world, but the sports world. “

Video: Steve Mayer takes us behind the scenes of Lake Tahoe

The 2008 Winter Classic transcended hockey. The image of the Penguins center Sidney crosby scoring the winner of the shootout as the snowflakes fell has become a classic winter image.

This broad romantic appeal helped lead to 28 more outdoor games at stadiums across North America.

“It’s also very important with this one,” Mayer said. “We believe we put this in place, it will be spectacular hockey, two incredible games on Saturday and Sunday, but we also think it is something that will resonate with sports fans.

“You know, sports fans yearn for big events. They’re home, they all experience what we all go through, and we’re here to entertain, and I really believe it’s okay if you’re a hockey fan. , a basketball fan, a football fan, this is something that you are going to tune into.

“And if we get a great response, I think in the League office we’ll be talking about the future of games in crazy, beautiful, wonderful and iconic places as we look to the future.”

So far, so good.

Even though the NHL had two months to plan instead of the usual year, even though a group of about eight people made a site visit in December instead of several departments making the usual 15-20 visits, and even though the golf course does not have the usual stadium infrastructure, everything is going as planned.

The team was installing the aluminum trays that make up the rink floor on Friday, and the plan was to begin the slow and orderly process of building the ice surface on Friday night. A temporary Mayer building called “the chalet” is being built next to the ice rink.

Video: 2021 NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe time-lapse

Normally, the NHL adapts the scenography to the location. When the Dallas Stars defeated the Nashville Predators 4-2 before 85,630 in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1, 2020, Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas was dressed like a Texas ranch. It was like a rodeo. A big part of the idea is to give viewers a sense of belonging.

No need in Lake Tahoe.

“When you come here, and I’m going to kind of head to what’s behind me, the lake and the mountains, that environment speaks for itself,” Mayer said. “I mean, it’s the set design, so we didn’t want to do much with it, and you’ll see when you watch the game next week that we really take in this amazing environment, the wilderness.”

It’s one thing to dream of an event like this, to plan for it. It’s another thing to see him come to life in person.

It will be yet another thing to see it on television.

“It’s going to be really unique and different,” Mayer said. “And it’s such a shame that we can’t have fans here, but for those who are going to watch from home, I think they’re going to have a really special show.

“It’s for us, as we kind of thought, designed and [are] now start running it, it turns out it’s one of those you watch and you think years and years down the road people are still going to be talking, so we think we’re putting something together that will be very memorable. “

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