NHL Outdoor Hockey Games: What You Need to Know for 2024
To give fans of professional hockey more ways to experience the game live, the National Hockey League has hosted a handful of different outdoor specialty games, including the Heritage Classic™, the Winter Classic® and the Stadium Series®. Each game brings a different appeal to the forefront. For example, the Heritage Classic™ is typically played between Canadian teams and the Stadium Series® is usually played in a large football or baseball stadium.
Coming into the 2023–2024 season, there have been six installments of the Heritage Classic™ to date, 13 installments of the Stadium Series® and 14 installments of the Winter Classic®.
Upcoming NHL Outdoor Games
For the 2023-2024 season, the NHL® will host one installment each of the Winter Classic®, Stadium Series® and the Heritage Classic™.
NHL® Outdoor Hockey Games
The NHL® currently holds outdoor games under three distinct branding identities: the Winter Classic®, the Stadium Series® and the Heritage Classic™.
Played on January 1 or 2 each year, the Winter Classic® has been on the schedule every year since 2009 (with exceptions of 2013 due to a strike and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Played in stadiums like Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor and Citi Field in New York City, the Winter Classic® is routinely one of the top attended and viewed regular season games each year.
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The NHL Stadium Series® is distinctive from the Winter Classic® and the Heritage Classic™ because it’s held later in the season (usually in late January, February or early March) and is played only in an outdoor football or baseball stadium in the United States. There were three installments in the inaugural run of the Stadium Series®, and there has been at least one game played each year since 2014 (except for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). In the 2023 Stadium Series® game, the Carolina Hurricanes® beat the Washington Capitals® 4-1 at Carter–Finley Stadium in front of 56,961 fans.
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Despite being the first official regular season game played outdoors in 2003, there have only been six games played under the Heritage Classic™ brand, with the first five being played exclusively between Canadian teams. Each game in the Heritage Classic™ has been played in Canada, with the most recent game being played at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, between the Toronto Maple Leafs® and the Buffalo Sabres®.
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History of Outdoor Hockey Games
The NHL® debuted outdoor hockey for the first time back in 1954 in an exhibition game between the Detroit Red Wings® and an amateur hockey team from the Marquette Branch Prison, the Marquette Prison Pirates. It was a promotional event set up by the GM of the Red Wings and sponsored by Stroh’s Brewery. Two years later, the league set up a similar exhibition, but this time in Boston between the Boston Bruins® and inmates from Bay Roberts, Brigus and Shearstown (each team getting a period of play against professionals).
The NHL® debuted the Heritage Classic™ in November of 2003. The Classic was to celebrate the creation of the game in Canada between Canadian teams. In the inaugural game, the Montreal Canadiens® bested the Edmonton Oilers® 4-3 in front of 57,167 fans.
Five years later, the NHL® debuted the Winter Classic®, played in Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The Pittsburgh Penguins® powered by Sidney Crosby beat the Buffalo Sabres® 2-1 in a dramatic shootout victory.
The league showcased the Stadium Series® for the first time in 2014 when they hosted three games in outdoor baseball venues over five days: the Anaheim Ducks® beat the Los Angeles Kings® 3-0 at Dodger Stadium, and the New York Rangers® won twice in two tries in Yankee Stadium, first over the New Jersey Devils® 7-3 and later 2-1 over crosstown rivals the New York Islanders®.
The largest attended hockey game of all time was the 2014 installment of the Winter Classic® in Michigan Stadium where 105,491 people watched the Toronto Maple Leafs® beat the Detroit Red Wings® 3-2 in a shootout on New Year’s Day.
NHL and the NHL Shield are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. NHL and NHL team marks are the property of the NHL and its teams. © NHL 2023. All Rights Reserved.
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