Every hockey player growing up has had the experience of playing outside. In the freezing temperatures, players don't seem to feel the cold and instead enjoy time playing the sport they love. When the NHL decided to start playing outdoor games, the reaction was met with excitement, and the enthusiasm still exists many years later.
Watching the best players in the world play in front of thousands of fans at a ball park or a football stadium in the cold is loved by the fans. What isn't loved however; are the fans of the teams that aren't getting a chance to play in the outdoor games because the same ones seem to keep getting selected.
The first regular season outdoor game was the Heritage Classic in 2003 between the Oilers and Canadiens. Since then there have been 14 outdoor games, with two more on February 21st and 27th.
Here is a count of the teams that have participated, or are going to participate (future games already announced):
Chicago (x4), Montreal (x4), Pittsburgh (x3), Detroit (x3), New York Rangers (x3), Boston (x3), Philadelphia (x2), Washington (x2), Los Angeles (x2), Edmonton, Buffalo, Calgary, Toronto, Anaheim, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Vancouver, San Jose, Minnesota, and Colorado.
Having teams like Chicago and Montreal play four times (Montreal's fourth tally comes from it's Winter Classic in 2016) gets boring for the average fan who watch the games on TV. I personally enjoy watching them; however do I really want to watch Patrick Kane over and over again? There are 6 teams with 3 or more appearances or future appearances, how difficult is it let other teams play more?
Minnesota FINALLY received an outdoor game this year, despite being known as the hockey state. And the internet erupted with annoyance when Chicago was chosen as the team they would play. Why not Dallas? After all, the Minnesota North Stars did relocate to Dallas, so it would have been a clever choice.
Pittsburgh seems to be chosen as a favourite because of the popularity of Crosby or Malkin. Now, it is understandable that sites are mostly chosen in northern cities or in cities where superstars play, but why not showcase other teams as well? Why have the Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames, or the centre of the hockey universe Toronto Maple Leafs only played one outdoor game? These are all northern cities in which hockey thrives and tickets could still be sold out despite high prices, thus making huge profits.
The NHL needs to allow other teams to play outdoor hockey, because the popularity of the outdoors games won't last forever. Even more so, it will be likely be cut short if the same teams get to play each and every year.
Here are some ideas that anyone except the NHL can come up with: Toronto vs Ottawa for outdoor battle of Ontario? Calgary vs Edmonton for outdoor battle of Alberta? How about Minnesota vs Dallas or Colorado?