NHL Outdoor Games: Have They Lost Their Lustre?

After the Stadium Series in New Jersey, we have wrapped up the outdoor schedule for the 2023-24 season. For something that started as a gimmick to bring players back to their roots, there is a question about the overall enjoyability of these games. All teams except for Arizona, Columbus, and Florida have competed in at least one game. Although Columbus will face off against Detroit next year at Ohio Stadium. With many teams having participated there is a question if NHL outdoor games have lost their lustre after 21 years. Let’s look at the different types of events and their impact after 41 regular-season outdoor games.

Winter Classic

The NHL’s tradition to kick off the new year has seen 15 games played. Due to scheduling three of those contests were played on January 2nd instead of New Year’s Day. This has been a staple on the NHL schedule since Sidney Crosby scored a shootout winner in the snow of Ralph Wilson Stadium. This event has featured incredible venues like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Heinz Field.

The 2014 Winter Classic holds the record for the largest attendance in NHL history at Michigan Stadium where 105,491 fans saw Tyler Bozak sink the Red Wings with a shootout winner. This is no doubt a signature event of the NHL calendar and will likely remain for a very long time. Next year a return to Wrigley Field will also see the NHL outdoor debut of Connor Bedard.

Heritage Classic

The original outdoor event for the NHL has a unique Canadian twist in its 7 contest history. In 2003, Montreal and Edmonton faced off and Commonwealth Stadium which began a new trend for outdoor NHL games. It also started the incredible trend of goaltenders wearing a toque on top of their masks.

Out of all Heritage Classic’s the only American team to participate is the Buffalo Sabres in 2022 in Hamilton. There has yet to be a game announced for the 2024-25 season but we have yet to see the Toronto Maple Leafs face either of the Montreal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators outdoors.

José Théodore at the 2003 Heritage Classic

Stadium Series

The newest addition to the NHL outdoor calendar is the Stadium Series. Starting in 2014 with a trio of games featuring the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks face off at Dodger Stadium. The New York Rangers faced both the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium. In the 10 years since those games, the Stadium Series has put on 15 contests culminating in two games at MetLife Stadium this year. The games have been played anywhere between January and March so it leaves a wide range for stadiums. 2024-25 has Columbus and Detroit on the schedule but it is unknown if that is the only one for next season.

NHL Outdoor Games: Have They Lost Their Lustre?

Other Contests

While there were several attempts at outdoor games pre-moon landing the first completed outdoor game between two NHL teams was outside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The LA Kings defeated the New York Rangers on September 27th, 1991. The Centennial Classic to honour the league’s 100th season featured the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at BMO Field in Toronto.

Another outdoor game for the league’s century mark was the NHL100 Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. Finally the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe two-game set at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada. We saw the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, and Philadelphia Flyers square off. The NHL took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to pick a unique event that didn’t allow any fans.


While the NHL might not be the most creative league out there they have taken a chance playing games outdoors. There have been several weather delays and postponements that MLB fans are used to. Some teams play in so many of these games they run out of creative jersey designs. The most recent Rangers and Islanders game in New Jersey showed exactly why these events exist.

A thrilling game in an outdoor spectacle is the exact remedy the doctor ordered for the NHL. While the schedule may not be full yet there is untapped potential and markets for these special events on the NHL calendar. The NHL outdoor games have yet to lose their lustre. Check out Area 51 Sports Network for all your NHL needs.