More than 200,000 fans have witnessed three NHL regular-season games played without a roof this season, and each has provided a unique take on the outdoor hockey experience.
Whether it was the steady snow at The Big House, the SoCal-flavored spectacle or the offensive explosion in the Bronx, games at Michigan Stadium, Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium have provided a variety of memorable moments and an experience fans and players alike will cherish.
There are three more outdoor games this season, with the next one back in the Bronx on Wednesday when the New York Rangers face their other regional rival, the New York Islanders, in a 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2). The final two are after a break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, with the Chicago Blackhawks welcoming the Pittsburgh Penguins to Soldier Field for the conclusion of the Stadium Series on March 1, while the following day the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks will clash across the street from the Canucks' normal home in the 2014 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic at BC Place.
Here's a look at the top nine moments from the three outdoor games this season:
1. Sea of (Red and) Blue
Ever wondered what an NHL game would like with 105,000 friends? Michigan Stadium proved to be an incredible setting for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, with quality sightlines and an amazingly intimate atmosphere despite easily the most patrons ever to watch an NHL game. The fan bases of the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs did their part, packing the stadium and proudly displaying their favorite team's colors, which made for incredible visuals.
2. California, here we come
Playing a game at Dodger Stadium always was considered the biggest experiment among these outdoor games, and Chavez Ravine provided an amazing backdrop for a wonderfully Southern California experience. The area on the field inside the stadium that wasn't covered by ice had beach volleyball, street hockey, yoga, Frisbees and the kings of spectacle, KISS. Legendary broadcasters Vin Scully of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Bob Miller of the Los Angeles Kings welcomed the players to the field, and Scully narrated a spine-tingling segment at the start of the television broadcast. This game didn't need snow to provide stunning aerial images and a poignant party atmosphere.
3. Hall of Fame connection?
On a day where New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr passed former teammate Mario Lemieux on the League's all-time assist leaderboard, he provided the engine for one of the prettiest goals scored in any of the NHL's outdoor games. Jagr collected a pass on the left wing and swooped past four Rangers defenders before splitting them with a perfect pass to a trailing Patrik Elias for a goal at the edge of the crease to give the Devils a 2-1 lead.
4. Big day for JVR
James van Riemsdyk had a New Year's Day he won't soon forget when the Maple Leafs defeated the Red Wings on Jan. 1. Not only did van Riemsdyk learn he will represent the United States at the Winter Olympics for the first time during a postgame announcement on the ice at Michigan Stadium, but he also scored the goal of the game. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard denied his first two attempts but van Riemsdyk swatted the second rebound out of the air and into the net.
5. Bravest and Finest
The walk from the dressing rooms to the ice has become a staple of the outdoor game pageantry, and it will be tough to top how the Rangers and Devils were welcomed to the playing surface at Yankee Stadium. Members of the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and the NYPD Pipes and Drums played as the players walked past en route to the ice and a crowd of more than 50,000 serenaded both clubs with a mixture of cheers and boos befitting a passionate, New York-based rivalry.
6. Hiller stones Kopitar … twice
The most memorable part of Jonas Hiller's night at Dodger Stadium might be the bright orange pads he wore to match his team's uniform, but the Anaheim Ducks goalie also wowed with his performance. Hiller stopped all 36 shots by the Kings, and the two most impressive were 1-on-1 saves against Anze Kopitar. The Slovenian star had a penalty shot and a clear breakaway, but Hiller turned aside both to further frustrate the struggling Kings offense.
7. Fight on and palm trees
Speaking of player entrances, that's another part of the pregame spectacle at Dodger Stadium that was perfect. The Ducks and Kings walked from center field through two rows of palm trees before splitting off to their respective ends of the ice. The instructions were something like, "turn when you reach the band," because the University of Southern California marching band was playing as the players walked toward the ice.
8. Winter wonderland
The first NHL Winter Classic in Buffalo provided indelible images because of the snowfall during the game. "Snow globe effect" became an accepted phrase when discussing hockey games played outdoors after that day at Ralph Wilson Stadium. A steady snow fell during the 2014 NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium and kept members of the NHL's ice crew busy during stoppages of play.
9. Rangers hit a "grand slam"
The first period Sunday at Yankee Stadium was wide open and the Devils and Rangers combined for five goals. It was all Rangers in the second as New York put four goals past New Jersey's Martin Brodeur to take control of the contest en route to a 7-3 victory. The Rangers scored the most goals by any team in an NHL outdoor game.