The outdoor hockey game has become a bit commonplace lately, with the return of the Heritage Classic and the Bruins/Whalers Legends games over the weekend.
Arthur, we've asked the question before, considering West Coast teams being included in the NHL's midseason main event, but with so many outdoor hockey games taking center stage, why wait for the league to get around to it? Should the west coast teams push for their own outdoor game?
Well, they've done it before, when LA and the Rangers tangled at Caesar's Palace in 1991. There's also outdoor hockey history in Southern California. When USC was a college hockey powerhouse pre-WWII, they faced Loyola outdoors in Westwood and drew a crowd of 8,000.
Would it ever happen with the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic already in place? Probably not. But until a California team receives consideration to actually play in the Winter Classic (which, judging from the team selection so far, has never happened), I think trying to do it on your own, and showing that there's an interest level and a viable market, is important. Especially for networks that refuse to forget the ratings performance of the Ducks' Stanley Cup broadcasts.
There's growing support for niche outdoor games. I don't see why Southern California has to be any different. Even if they just push for an alumni game, I think it could really be something. Get Gretzky to suit up and make something happen.
California teams have been pretty influential in hockey this past decade, but the league refuses to acknowledge that. The Ducks brought the Cup to the Pacific Time Zone for the first time since the Victoria Cougars in 1925, they upset the top seeded Sharks and provided classic series with the Red Wings in both 2007 and 2009. San Jose has been a model franchise for the past decade, racking up playoff appearances, despite being in a smaller market. Let's just forget about the playoff failures for a second and remember that this team made it to the Western Conference Finals last year. Then there are the Kings. The epitome of patient rebuilding. It's finally starting to pay off, and the Kings are making a strong push for another playoff appearance.
And the Kings have the most history in California hockey. They had Dionne, Vachon, Taylor, Gretzky, Robitaille, Blake, Sandstrom, McSorley and countless others suit up for them. I've never understood the Anaheim hate of Los Angeles. Then again, I spent my first few hockey years as a Kings fan.
My first hockey game was the Kings versus the Blues, and it happened before the Ducks were even in the league. I remember listening on the radio in the hallway of our house in Moreno Valley as the referees measured the curve on Marty's stick and eventually sank the Kings' Cup chances. An L.A.-Montreal rematch would be an awesome game to catch at Dodger Stadium.
Palm trees and sunshine would confuse home viewers as they watched the crowds collective breath hit the air and condense into a faint fog on a 50 degree afternoon. Whether it's officially a "Winter Classic" or not, the history and pageantry that the NHL likes to associate with the Winter Classic can only be accomplished by this match up. This might open the door to the inclusion of the other California teams. Bettman talks about supporting non traditional NHL markets, and here's his chance to back it up. Kings versus Canadiens will offer him everything he wants. L.A. was one of the original expansion teams, and just as they laid the foundation for the Ducks to show up later and be successful, winning a Cup before they did, they also deserve a shot at putting on the Classic. Get on it L.A. Don't stop screaming until Bettman hears you.