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Melrose Minute: L.A. doing outdoor hockey its way

by Barry Melrose

In this sport you always hear it. You always hear that hockey belongs in the cold. Yes, traditionally that's where it's played because, of course, you have to have ice to play the game. But that mold is going to get broken this Saturday when the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series kicks off in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2).

Think about it. We're sitting here talking about a game at Dodger Stadium where two of the best teams in the NHL are going to play. Both of those teams have won the Stanley Cup in recent memory, and you could make an argument that either one is the best team in the NHL this season. That is amazing. It's amazing that southern California is the center of the hockey world right now and it's amazing that the NHL is scheduling major outdoor events to be held in Los Angeles.

I have to be honest; there is some sense of gratification here. I remember when I took over as coach of the L.A. Kings in 1992 people said to me, "Barry, you can't win there. Not consistently. They've had good teams there but it's just not conducive to winning. It's too soft of a place. It's too free of a place."

I didn't think so. I thought it actually had advantages. All those other guys get home on a long road trip and get off the plane and it's 40-below. Go on a road trip with L.A. -- and there are a lot of them -- you get off the plane and it's 60 degrees out and you know it'll be 70 degrees the next day. I thought playing in southern California could be a benefit, not an obstacle, and the Ducks and Kings have proven that the case. These are now both very strong markets and things in southern California are starting to happen the way people like former Kings owner Bruce McNall envisioned it. The Kings are a hot ticket and kids in L.A. are playing hockey. It's great to see and it's a benefit to L.A. and the NHL.

Now as for the scene we'll have at Dodger Stadium on Saturday? I can't wait for that. The whole event will be typical L.A. You'll see a lot of stars at the game, a lot of Hollywood people will make their way there.

Then there's the set up itself. Around the rink they'll have a roller hockey rink and a beach volleyball court. I like that. I like that they're doing California stuff around the rink. In Ann Arbor we had rinks all around and little kids playing hockey and that's awesome, but I like that this will have local flavor. They aren't trying to emulate New York or Detroit in the cold weather. They're doing it the L.A. way, and that's the way it should be.

The whole event will be great. Dodger Stadium is a great stadium. It'll be a beautiful night and we'll have two great teams playing an important game. It'll be a great night for the NHL and a great night for L.A. and Anaheim.

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