Sunday’s New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils hockey game was played in Yankee Stadium as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series, which features six NHL games to be played in different outdoor sports arenas.
However, the contest, a 7-3 victory for the Rangers, proved to be less about the hockey game itself and more of a headache for fans, players, and the ice crew.
Sun reflecting off the ice delayed the game for an hour, which was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Eastern. The players didn’t body check each other, presumably from fear of getting hypothermia. The crowd of 50,105 were too far away from the ice to watch and enjoy the game, as seats were as far away as eighty yards from the ice. Temperatures dropped to the low 20s as it began to snow.
The New York Daily News quoted Devils RW Jaromir Jagr saying that the ice had “A lot of holes. But you understand that. When you make the ice so quickly, you’re gonna make holes on sharp turns and starts and stops.”
In short, the game did not provide much, except for some nostalgic feelings.
“There was a time,” New York Daily News writer Filip Bondy said, “Some of us remember, a time when municipalities were not quite as fearful of lawsuits, when towns actually allowed local hockey players to skate on ponds that sprouted six-inch-thick ice. These NHL stadium games do harken back a bit to that era before red flags, before “No Skating” signs and hyper-protective police officers.”
The appeal of outdoor hockey in a different stadium is growing on the NHL, especially wanting to add upon the Winter Classic with more contests outside in not so friendly conditions. Still, with the risks that come with an outdoor game, players understand the weight of playing in a stadium with a lot of significance and value to the city, like Yankee Stadium.
“It’s a very special place just to play here, and I’m Czech, where baseball is not very popular,” Jagr said. “I can just imagine for some guys who love baseball just to be here.”
The Stadium Series will confuse players and fans alike. While it provides a change of scenery, often a beautiful change as well, the play of the game will be drastically different. If playing the game of hockey is the biggest goal, then it does not make sense to add more outdoor games.