| February 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

NHL Scores Win With Stadium Series


The 2016 NHL Coors Light Stadium Series came to an end February 27 and did so in memorable fashion at Coors Field in Denver. The game marked the 18th outdoor event the NHL has staged since the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton, and the third this season following the New Year’s Winter Classic in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and a Stadium Series game in Minneapolis the week before.

The game in Denver was notable on a number of fronts. In a development that came to be a factor near the end of the game, the temperature at the start of the contest was 65 degrees, the warmest temperature the NHL has ever faced for an outdoor game in the regular season—games that have included two stops in California. (When the game was played last year in Los Angeles, the game-time temperature was 62 degrees.)

The lack of real snow to serve as ambience on the grass field beyond the rink was taken care of with synthetic snow that NHL crews scrambled to contain when a warm winter wind picked up during the third period. The fake snow bits, however, largely stayed off the rink, despite a few moments where it seemed questionable whether the material would work its way onto the ice for good. As for the ice itself, despite the warm conditions, it appeared to hold up well. That was no doubt a result of the years of experience the NHL has faced in a variety of conditions that have included sun, snow and rain.

But perhaps more significant, the sold-out crowd of 50,095 in Denver put the overall attendance for NHL outdoor games at 1,021,056. That works out to an average of 56,725 a game, a number that likely will keep more such games appearing in different destinations for years to come.

In Denver, the atmosphere was festive from the start, including at a large fan festival outside the stadium that was well attended in the hours leading up to the game. And with a strong hockey market, the league was able to turn the event into a three-game spectacle, starting with a college game between rivals Denver University and Colorado College on February 20 (which drew 35,000 fans) and an alumni game February 26 (which drew 43,000) between stars of the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche from the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the teams won a combined five Stanley Cups in seven years.

For the main event, which the Red Wings won 5-3 over the hometown Avalanche, the NHL kept the crowd in the game with impressive entertainment. During the first intermission, The Fray performed on a stage in the outfield, while fans in the outfield seats were given wristbands that lit up in unison at different intervals. During the game, audio from the ice was pumped in over the stadium’s speakers, allowing fans to hear the sound of skates on the ice and the whistles from the referees, a move that provided a more intimate experience in an otherwise cavernous environment. And as is usually the case for hockey games in a baseball stadium, the best seats may have been the ones near the top of the venue, which allowed fans the most unobstructed view of the action below.

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Category: Jason Gewirtz: On Assignment, Perspectives

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