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Collins: Demand remains high for NHL outdoor games

by Dan Rosen

LOS ANGELES -- After setting a new standard with six outdoor games this season, the NHL expects to scale back next season while still continuing the outdoor game tradition beyond New Year's Day.

John Collins, the League's chief operating officer, said Friday at Dodger Stadium that the League will "definitely" be holding fewer than six outdoor games next season, but he wouldn't put a number on how many and he wouldn't say where they could be other than Washington, D.C., which has already been announced as the host city for the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2015, at a still to be determined venue against a yet unnamed opponent.

"We have ideas," Collins said. "There are the markets that everybody points to that we all know would be great. We already announced Washington. Everybody knows Minnesota would be great. Colorado would be great. If this goes well [in Los Angeles], San Jose would be great."

Collins noted Montreal and Toronto are possibilities, provided the League can find the proper venue to host an outdoor game.

"With the Canadiens, two years ago they had U2 in the summer in a pop-up stadium with 80,000 people," Collins said. "It was in the summer, though, in Montreal. We'll have to see. I'm not sure that would take quite as well."

Collins said the League decided to do six outdoor games this season (2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, 2014 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic, and the four 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games) because of the uniqueness of the season with it being in an Olympic year and having NBC and CBC, the NHL's national broadcast rights holders, as the Olympic broadcast rights holders in the United States and Canada, respectively.

He admitted oversaturation of the outdoor games is a possibility, but added all of the League's corporate sponsors are on board with more being better. He also indicated the reaction from the markets where these games are taking place shows the eagerness and hype is still strong.

"When you're in the market, L.A. doesn't care that there are two games in New York," Collins said. "I mean, this is their game, and they're embracing it and they love it. It's going to be special. Hopefully it's not going to be the only one they'll ever get, but right now it's the only one they've ever had so they're embracing it, just like New York is embracing two games."

He said the emphasis on the Stadium Series games is on bringing them into markets that matter both on a grand media scale and on a hockey scale.

"L.A., Chicago and New York are important markets for anyone, big media markets," Collins said. "As we roll this thing out we'll look at other markets that are maybe really great hockey markets but not quite the big television market, but places where we know the event will be really embraced and well received and we'll have a great experience."

The buzz in Los Angeles is proof the NHL can continue to explore more games in the so-called non-traditional hockey markets.

The game is expected to be a sellout, and Collins said Kings president Luc Robitaille told him earlier in the week the fans here were embracing the Stadium Series in a manner that reminded him of Los Angeles' Stanley Cup run in 2012.

"You're going to get a great Southern California night with the stars, people sitting outside; it's going to be phenomenal," Collins said. "I think it allows us to think about other markets that we can go to and as [the media] know every market wants this, every non-NHL market that has a stadium or the venue wants it. We want to fill that demand."


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