With last night’s tough loss to St. Louis out of the way, the hockey world’s attention now turns to the much publicized “Stadium Series” games, starting this Saturday. This weekend’s festivities will see the Ducks and Kings face-off on Saturday at Dodger Stadium (with some of the ugliest unis going, by the way) while the Rangers will battle the Devils on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
When the NHL announced that there would be five outdoor games in addition to the Winter Classic played this year, much of the reaction centered around some variation of “overkill”. This is a novelty concept that was charming with one game on New Year’s day, but would the concept be turned into a gimmick by playing this many games outside? I have to admit, I was skeptical.
The Rangers were the beneficiaries of two of the five Stadium Series games, against the Devils and Islanders, respectively. Personally, I was hoping Yankee Stadium’s big hockey reveal would come during a Winter Classic, but alas, it was not meant to be. The weirder part was that both of these games would feature the Rangers in road white.
Henrik Lundqvist has been seen in two different sets of pads for these games; one utilizing a sock-based design, and the other paying homage to the building with a clean pinstripe layout. There was some discussion about the Yankees squashing the idea of the pinstriped pads, but the ones being worn in this picture are the new Bauer OD1N pads, so don’t be surprised if they show up in one of the games (which one is anybody’s guess).
What has been lost in the shuffle of all the excitement is that there are still two (four, including the mid-week game) big points on the line against a division rival(s). The Rangers have been playing great hockey of late, the Islanders game not withstanding. With Columbus and Philly hot on the Rangers tail (with games in hand) and Carolina and Jersey not far behind, this pre-Olympic slate could be critical for the Rangers’ season.
Bottom line: the boys need to maintain focus for this crucial stretch, not only to make those $400 tickets worthwhile up in the Bronx, but to continue to solidify their playoff position and allow the front office to make the necessary assessments for a productive trade deadline. While I’m sure the outdoor games will be a fantastic experience for the players, their families and the fans, it needs to result in points. Otherwise, the Yankees’ half billion dollar spending spree this offseason could end up the highlight of the winter.
What do you folks think about all the added outdoor games? Good for brand exposure to the casual fan? Overkill? Great opportunity for more cities and teams to participate in cold weather fun? Sound off in the comments below…