First outdoor hockey game was played in balmy weather

Jamie Heap
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On Saturday, January 25, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will place host to game one of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium series between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. This game can be seen in Canada at 11:00 pm AST CBC's Hockey Night In Canada late game. On Sunday, January 26, coverage of the second game of the series between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers can be seen on NBC starting at 1:30 pm AST.

When NHL fans think about outdoor hockey games, the Heritage and Winter classics immediately come to mind. On January 25, the first of four 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series’ games will be played at Dodger Stadium in sunny Los Angeles, California. While many NHL fans are wondering how the ice will hold up, there is a precedent for playing outdoor hockey games in warmer climates.

When Caesars World Sports president and New York Rangers fan Rich Rose first proposed that an outdoor game be played in Las Vegas, Nevada, he was met with skepticism. Paradoxically, when NHL marketing director Steve Flatow suggested he discuss the matter with the Los Angeles Kings, he received a different response. Before too long, the New York Rangers were onboard with the idea as well.

On September 27, 1991 at a cost of $135,000, the first official outdoor NHL game, albeit an exhibition one, took place in Las Vegas, Nevada on an outdoor hockey rink that was built on top of the parking lot of Caesars Palace hotel and casino. As for the ice, which was laid by Bob May of Ice Systems of America, he needed to use three times the refrigeration equipment used for a regular indoor hockey rink.

In spite of the fact that the temperature fluctuated between 85 °F (29 °C) and 95 °F (35 °C), the ice held up well. Despite first period goals by Tony Amonte and Doug Weight that staked the Rangers to an early 2-0 lead, goals by Tony Granato, Brian Benning and Sylvain Couturier during the second period put the Kings on top 3-2. In the third, Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky added goals en route to a 5-2 victory.

“This is pretty special,” said Wayne Gretzky in an interview about the upcoming outdoor game to be played at Dodger Stadium. “It seems like yesterday was 1991, September. We were playing in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace, the Rangers and the Kings. It turned out to be a great event. And then over the years, the Heritage game at Edmonton and then of course the January 1 games that have become so magical from Pittsburgh through Buffalo, Boston, Chicago. It’s just really so unique that the best players in the world play outdoors. It could be snowy, it could be windy, but the fans really enjoy the game. It really gives our game a boost and gives people an opportunity to talk about how special our game is.”

Other games in the series will go January 26, January 29 (Yankee Stadium, New York) and March 1, 2014 (Soldier Field, Chicago).

Organizations: NHL, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Caesars World Sports Caesars Palace hotel Ice Systems

Geographic location: Los Angeles, California, Dodger Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada America Chicago Las Vegas Edmonton Pittsburgh Buffalo Boston New York

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