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NHL Winter Classic

Winter Classic artists Dan + Shay, Midland key to feel of outdoor game

Country acts helped Stars, Predators fans feel at home at Cotton Bowl

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

Entertaining the Winter Classic

Creating an entertaining Winter Classic environment

See what goes into creating an entertaining experience for hockey fans at the 2020 NHL Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium

  • 02:38 •

The Dallas Stars won 4-2 against the Nashville Predators in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Wednesday. In conjunction with the game, and NHL Studios have presented "Making of The Winter Classic," a daily behind-the-scenes look at how the annual outdoor event comes together. Today, we focus on how the NHL selects musical artists for big events.


DALLAS -- When the NHL considers musical artists for big events, it starts with location.

"Is there a music genre that fits well in the city that we happen to be hosting the game in?" NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said.

It isn't as simple as it sounds, and Dallas is a good example. The NHL is well aware that people in Dallas like more than one genre of music. Rock is popular here. Rap is popular here.

"We really try to mix it up, and I think we've proven that not one genre of music is an NHL genre of music," Mayer said.


[RELATED: Complete 2020 NHL Winter Classic coverage]


But the NHL wants to provide a sense of place. With the Dallas Stars playing the Nashville Predators in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, with the game outdoors at Cotton Bowl Stadium on the site of the State Fair of Texas and with the field staged to look like a ranch, the choice was country.

"We started actively pursuing some of the more popular country music bands," Mayer said. "In this case, we also set out uniquely to highlight a band from Dallas and a band from Nashville. We thought that would be pretty cool. Jan. 1, let's celebrate and ring in the new year with music from both [places]. We have quite a significant amount of Nashville Predators fans attending the game as well. The process is simply blanketing labels and artists and agents and finding out who potentially could be available."

New Year's Day can be a difficult time to book artists, because New Year's Eve is such a big night for performances. But the NHL landed the Grammy Award-winning Nashville duo Dan + Shay to perform during the first intermission and the Grammy-nominated Texas trio Midland to open the festivities. Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney are hockey fans and flew to Dallas from New York after performing on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" on ABC.

"That's another thing that's very important to us at the NHL, having artists that love the game, want to participate, like, really are reaching out to us almost as much as we're reaching out to them," Mayer said. "And so in that case, that's one of the biggest factors with Dan + Shay."

Music helps make the event big and special.

"Our interest is to do more than just play a hockey game," Mayer said. "It's to entertain our fans, and one of the ways we do that is through music."

Music also might attract fans of a band to the game.

"Maybe some of them have never watched a hockey game, and then maybe some of them stay and watch some of the hockey game and fall in love with our game," Mayer said. "That's a win for us. Those are some of the things we like to take advantage of. They help us promote the game."

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