NHL plans more outdoor games at West Point and Air Force Academy, says Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The NHL’s first away game at a U.S. academy probably won’t be the last.

After the Washington Capitals welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Naval Academy, the league hopes to play games at Army’s West Point and the Air Force Academy over the next several years.

It’s a significant foray into honor and partnership with branches of the military that follow the lead of NFL and Major League Baseball for a league that has teams in the United States and Canada.

“It’s unique and as we continue to move forward with outdoor games you are looking for new concepts, new themes and new things that will interest fans,” Deputy Commissioner Bill said on Saturday. Daly at The Associated Press. “Certainly the hope is that with a successful game (in Navy) we will continue the adventure with the Army and Air Force and see where we go from there.”

Daly said he would be surprised if the Maple Leafs-Capitals sequel to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium arrives as early as the 2018-19 season, although 2019-20 is a possibility. The Florida Panthers faced the New Jersey Devils in an exhibition game at the Tate Rink in West Point in 2006, and ownership ties with the military make the Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights good candidates for a potential outdoor match there.

US-born players taking part in the Navy game said they were honored to have the opportunity. Told of the NHL’s future plans to attempt games against the Army and Air Force, Maple Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey called it “a big road ahead for us.”

“It’s a great recognition and almost a small partnership that we can play here,” said US Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen. “I think it means different things to different people. As a country it means a lot, especially to the Americans who play in the league and our fans.”

The NHL has 24 American teams and seven Canadian teams and is made up of approximately 49 percent of Canadian-born players. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces took part in pre-game ceremonies with the Maple Leafs, and Daly said involving a team north of the 48th parallel was a conscious decision that met no resistance.

“I think the North American forces are united,” Daly said. “I think there is a real appreciation for the military wherever you are, north or south of the border. While that was something we certainly thought about, it sure wasn’t. something that has been a hindrance at all. “

When Mike Babcock, originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, moved to Spokane, Wash., He remembered the deep ties to the military of those stationed at nearby Fairchild Air Force Base or simply the residents who have served or known someone who was in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps. It is therefore very sensitive to comparisons and contrasts for the military in the United States and Canada.

“When you talk to families in the United States, there seems to be someone in every family who has had someone in the [military]”Said the Maple Leafs coach.” When you do it in Canada, we don’t have such a big army, so we haven’t had the same. That doesn’t mean we don’t have tons of people doing a great job and doing all they can. “

Babcock said he didn’t know how the NHL would run an outdoor game in a place like the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont., And Daly admitted that the service academies are different in the United States. . They also offer the kind of outdoor venues that are well suited to hockey.

“It’s just a different atmosphere,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said before playing at 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. I think the football and baseball stadiums that I have played in are amazing. But to have a kind of unique atmosphere and story about this place, and from a fan’s point of view, sightlines and everything are much better in a place like this than a field of 60,000-seat football. “

Being part of a historic atmosphere is something players, Americans and others, have cited as adding value to this Stadium Series game.

“As Americans I’m sure if you’re from another country it’s probably not quite that way, but for us it’s really special,” said Capitals right winger TJ Oshie. “It’s great for the NHL, it’s great for hockey, and it’s great for Americans who are able to play in games.

The NFL has partnered with the military for years, and the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins of the MLB played Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2016. The NHL is now floundering in those waters with others. future.

“The recognition that [servicemen and women] merit, I guess, is probably a lot more than everyone else, Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner said. Going to sporting events in places like this is pretty cool.


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