The newly crafted Stadium Series is a stroke of genius by the NHL, and will kick off with the Anaheim Ducks taking on the LA Kings on Saturday, January 25th at Dodgers Stadium. You can see the game on NBC with the puck dropping at 6:30pm EST. This seems like a natural extension of the Winter Classic because it is, but the point of the Stadium Series is to expose the beauty of the outdoor game to fans that may not typically enjoy it.
STADIUM SERIES SCHEDULE
- Dodgers Stadium – January 25th – LA Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks
- Yankee Stadium – January 26th – New Jersey Devils vs. NY Rangers
- Yankee Stadium – January 29th – NY Rangers vs. NY Islanders
- Soldier Field – March 1st – Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Beyond the fact that the games will be held outdoors, each team unveiled unique jerseys to be worn at the event. The NHL is trying to make the Stadium Series special, and really it is. Those of us that grew up playing shinny, or parents that routinely bundled up to see their kids play on outdoor rinks, have fallen in love with the concept.
I’m amongst those in favor of more outdoor games. Unlike the other major sports in North America, the NHL is always on the brink of caving in on itself. They avoided league wide bankruptcy through two much-needed lockouts that cured many of the financial woes that teams were facing. But interest in the sport is still peanuts compared to the NBA and especially the NFL, despite the soaring success of Team USA on the international stage and a flood of superstars entering the league like Toews, Malkin, Kane, Crosby, Ovechkin and Kessler.
The Stadium Series might seem like a gimmick, because it is, but it’s also an invitation to view the game in a different light. The 2014 Winter Classic packed the house with 110,000 fans on New Year’s Day to watch the Leafs and Red Wings battle it out in a thrilling game. Even if you’re going to denigrate the Stadium Series as nothing more than a cheap ploy, you can’t argue it’s effective impact. I watched the Winter Classic, along with the Rose Bowl, at a bar and everyone I was with was screaming, “This is awesome! Look at how cold those guys are!” Hockey is a great game, and generating interest on any level is immense for the growth of the sport and the NHL itself, especially in markets like California.
Outdoor hockey is a staple of life in the northeast and Canada, but it’s virtually non-existent on the west coast. The mild weather doesn’t help, which makes Southern California a bit of a questionable destination. But the league has employed a team of engineers and managers that can get the job done. The ice might not be ideal, but the mission will be accomplished, and that means that fans in the Los Angeles area are in for a treat.
Going to a game at iconic Dodgers Stadium is a delight if you’re a baseball fan, but to see a professional hockey game at Dodgers Stadium will be a sight to behold. The Anaheim Ducks are the Western Conference’s best team, boasting 79 points on the season with a 52-37-10-5 SU record. They’re also 8-2 SU in their last 10 games and a score 3.4 goals per game (3rd) while rifling 31.9 shots per game (6th).
They’ll be favored at Dodgers Stadium against the Los Angeles Kings, who are ranked 23rd in goals scored despite a clip of 31.3 shots per game (8th). But the Kings also boast the best defense in the league overall with just 2.0 goals against on average (1st) and 27.4 shots allowed (3rd). They’re also one of the best penalty killing teams out there and lead the league in shutouts with 8 on the year. Much of their success is built on the back of goalie Jonathan Quick who is the starting goalie for Team USA as well.
The pick is relatively straight forward. The Ducks have been virtually unstoppable this entire season, and the Kings have played at a high level in every phase of the game except offensive scoring. That’s why they’re just 3-5 SU in their last 8 games. The Stadium Series will be an incredible event to take in as a fan, especially in the warm weather of Los Angeles. If you want to have a rooting interest in this game, then bet on Anaheim to win.