It’s about that time in an NHL/NHLPA negotiation (or, not negotiation) where things start to get weird. With the league still trying to figure out a way through the upcoming season, with the financial climate so dire for many teams and with players refusing to budge on the agreement they made a few months ago, all kinds of revenue streams are being discussed.
One of those, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, is the possibility of holding games outdoors where fans could potentially attend. Friedman writes today that at least four teams are “investigating the possibility” of outdoor games, listing the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Kings were apparently the first to consider the idea, though it’s important to note that NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told James Mirtle of The Athletic last month that holding more outdoor games was unlikely.
Still, following Friedman’s report came one from Pierre LeBrun, who writes that it’s not just those four teams considering the idea of holding multiple outdoor events. The Penguins, Bruins, and Kings are on his list of teams that would be open to hosting or taking part in outdoor games, but so too are the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, and Nashville Predators.
It’s important to remember that even if the NHL caves and doesn’t amend the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed a few months ago, the players still would have to eventually pay back any salary that brings them over 50% of the hockey-related revenue. With no fans and very little revenue to be made, it seems likely that both sides would be open to out-of-the-box ideas like outdoor contests if it brought in ticket sales.
Still, those outdoor games also have a substantially increased cost, which is what Daly pointed out to Mirtle last month. As LeBrun writes, commissioner Gary Bettman is also worried that holding so many outdoor games could hurt the Winter Classic brand, which has been a success for the league in previous years. Those negatives may eventually win out in the end, but there is nothing stopping teams from exploring the option at this point.