Ever since the NHL held its first regular season outdoor game—the Heritage Classic in October 2003 between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens—the league has known it was a great idea. After all, hockey is a game that was born outdoors by kids playing on frozen ponds. Playing outside is what hockey is all about, right?
Since then, the NHL has held 19 total outdoor games. But the most successful ones have been the annual Winter Classic game. Since 2008, the NHL has celebrated New Year's Day with an outdoor game in the afternoon. Watching the game with family has become an exciting new tradition for hockey fans. Plus, teams have fun designing new jerseys just for the match as a way of highlighting the traditions of their franchises.
Happy 100 years, NHL!
Now speaking of tradition, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the NHL. So the league has something extra special up its sleeve... two games!
On January 1st, they will have the Centennial Classic, an outdoor match between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at BMO Field in Toronto. Then on January 2nd, it's the Winter Classic with the St. Louis Blues hosting the Chicago Blackhawks. That's two big games for hockey fans to plan their winter breaks around!
The Maple Leafs are 100, too... will Detroit spoil their party?
The Centennial Classic has an extra layer of meaning, too. That's because this is also the 100th anniversary of the Toronto Maple Leafs. You can bet that this extra meaning will make the game quite a spectacle to watch. This game will also be a rematch of the 2014 Winter Classic between the Leafs and Red Wings. That game, which the Leafs won 3-2 in a shootout, happened in front of an NHL record attendance of 105,491! What's more, Detroit's coach during that game, Mike Babcock, is now Toronto's head coach. So will the Wings get their revenge, or are the Leafs going to celebrate 100 years in style?
Outdoors veterans versus rookies
The Chicago Blackhawks have played in more outdoor games than any NHL franchise (this will be their fifth). Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues are playing in their first. Everyone in these games talks about how different it is playing outdoors, so advantage Chicago, right? Except that experience hasn't paid off for the Blackhawks. They already lost three of the four games they've played! In addition, the Blues almost went to the Stanley Cup Final last year (and eliminated the Blackhawks in the playoffs to get there!). These are two really strong teams, and you can bet that the city of St. Louis will be excited to host its first ever outdoor game.
Who are you picking to win these matches? Either way, enjoy the hockey, and Happy New Year!