With the NHL well into its second half, the playoff races tightening, and the Sochi Olympics just weeks away, there’s just one question on the minds of most fans.
Who’s ready for some more outdoor games?
What’s that? You thought we were done with outdoor games for the year? Why, just because we already had the annual Winter Classic more than three weeks ago? Silly hockey fan. This is the NHL, where anything that turns out to be popular has to eventually be beaten into the ground until we’re all sick of it and every penny has been sucked dry.
This year, we still have five more outdoor games to go. Between the brand-new Stadium Series and the resurrection of the Heritage Classic, we’ll be talking outdoor hockey from now until the first weekend in March.
Overkill? Probably. But that doesn’t mean the individual games can’t still be plenty of fun. To prepare you for the coming onslaught, let’s take a look at all the key details for each of the five remaining matchups.
Ducks vs. Kings
When and Where: Saturday at Dodger Stadium
Official Selling Point: Two excellent teams face off in a historic venue in the NHL’s very first outdoor game in the western United States.
Actual Selling Point: Because the game is in Southern California and the forecast calls for temperatures around 80 degrees, everyone will be waiting to see if the ice will melt and drown all the players. (It won’t.) (Probably.)
Novelty Factor: Extremely high, given the location and venue. And to their credit, organizers aren’t shying away from the warm-weather theme, even including a beach volleyball court and apparently aiming to “create a Venice Beach atmosphere.” I have no idea what that is, but I’m guessing it won’t involve toques and hot cocoa.
Fashion Police: As per tradition, both teams will use the outdoor game as an opportunity to introduce and market specially designed jerseys. The Kings have chosen a cheerful gray-and-black ensemble, while the Ducks are going with a head-to-toe orange. You can see both uniforms here. They’re … interesting. I’m doing my best to resist the urge to make fun of them. I’m pretty sure I can do this.
Non-Hockey Entertainment: Kiss will be performing live after the first period. Wait, the first-intermission entertainment will be some old guy from the 1970s in an outrageous costume yelling incoherently at the top of his lungs? How original.
Potential Problems: From all accounts, the preparations have gone fairly smoothly, though this week’s sudden flurry of “Hey, we really need everyone to purchase prepaid parking” messaging seems like an ominous sign, doesn’t it?
Why You Should Watch: It should be a legitimately great game between two very good teams with a genuine rivalry. Also, it will be your first chance to see a team dressed in bright orange at a baseball park since your 6-year-old’s last T-ball game. (Dammit. I tried.)
In a Perfect World: Darryl Sutter shows up in his typical outdoors wardrobe.
Prediction: We get a classic game, featuring a high skill level and plenty of intensity, that keeps getting interrupted at crucial moments by the beach volleyball accidentally getting knocked onto the ice.