SOUTH BEND, IND — The NHL knows where it’s taking its next three outdoor games. It just isn’t ready to reveal who’s playing in two of them yet.
The NHL announced that the 2019 Heritage Classic, the outdoor game series in Canada, will feature the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Oct. 26. It’s the second outdoor game for both franchises.
The league’s other two outdoor contests have hosts but no guests.
The next NHL Winter Classic will be held at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas on Jan. 1, 2020. The Dallas Stars are the host, but no opponent was announced, which is an oddity as far as Winter Classic announcements go. The NHL also announced that a Stadium Series game will be held at the United States Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the Avalanche will play host on Feb. 15, 2020. Again, no opponent was announced.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that there is a variety of factors under consideration.
“Rivalry, what we think will draw traveling interest, what we think will draw local interest, what’s a compelling matchup in terms of how the teams are playing — and that’s a guestimate, considering it’s a season away — and what we think will drive a rating,” he said. “We also look at who’s participated, and who may be likely to participate in other games in future years.”
Instead, Bettman said the league is considering some riskier options than its usual slate of Original Six and northeastern U.S. franchises. Speculation on site in South Bend, Indiana, was that the Nashville Predators and the Vegas Golden Knights could be in consideration for the 2020 Winter Classic opponent, which would mean a meeting of two “nontraditional markets” for the first time in NHL outdoor game history.
“Those are all things that we’ve been discussing,” said Bettman.
The Cotton Bowl would be one of the largest stadiums in which the NHL has placed an outdoor game. It’s capacity is listed at 92,100, although Bettman said it’s more around 80,000. The NHL has only had three outdoor games with a crowd larger than 70,000: in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in Buffalo and in Santa Clara, California.
“Depending on the sight lines and configurations, our capacity is probably different than their capacity [at the Cotton Bowl],” said Bettman, who said the final capacity numbers will be announced at a later date. “We know we can put the rink in, but we haven’t figured out the ticket manifest yet.”
As for the other outdoor game, there had been speculation that West Point would be the next service academy to get an outdoor game, but it went to Air Force instead. Bettman said that West Point would be in consideration for a game at a later date.
The NHL also announced that St. Louis will host the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend from Jan. 24-26. It will be the third time the Blues have hosted NHL All-Star activities.