With the National Hockey League set to celebrate its 100th anniversary in the 2016-2017 season, there are some special events planned. On the slate are four outdoor games: the Heritage Classic, the Winter Classic, the Centennial Classic, and the Stadium Series.
The 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic will feature the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. That takes place on October 23 of 2016 and was initially announced last week. It’ll be the first outdoor game for the Jets and the second outdoor contest for the Oilers, who last appeared in the 2003 Heritage Classic against the Montreal Canadiens.
The NHL Centennial Classic is up next on New Year’s Day, with the Detroit Red Wings meeting the Toronto Maple Leafs. This contest will take place at BMO Field in Toronto, with the Leafs also celebrating their 100th year as a franchise. This is the second time the Leafs have faced off against the Red Wings at an outdoor game, with the 2014 Winter Classic featuring the two teams at the Big House in Michigan.
“This meeting of the Red Wings and Maple Leafs offers an ideal launch for a fantastic 2017 – the year in which the National Hockey League will celebrate its Centennial, Toronto will commemorate 100 years of NHL play and Canada will observe the 150th anniversary of Confederation,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.
The 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will take place on January 2 of 2017, of course, and will feature the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. The Blues will be marking their 50th year in the NHL as one of the original expansion teams, while Chicago will be taking part in their fifth outdoor game. The game takes place at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Finally, the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series takes place on February 18 of 2017. The Philadelphia Flyers will face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Both teams entered the NHL in 1967’s expansion process.
While some might suggest that four outdoor games in one season marks the beginning of overkill for the concept, it’s hard to argue that the league shouldn’t do something special to mark 100 years of existence. The outdoor games have proven to be exceptionally popular and there is the risk of running the idea into the ground, but one season of overabundance shouldn’t ruin the concept.