NHL owners are exploring any way they can to make money this upcoming season with hockey-related revenue expected to take a massive hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes potentially playing multiple games in outdoor venues.
Multiple media reports have indicated that it is an idea that is on the table and that several teams specifically have shown interest in it. According to The Athletic, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers have all expressed interest.
Sportnet in Canada reported that the Anaheim Ducks were also among the teams interested.
For the record, that same report by The Athletic indicates that the New York Islanders do not want to participate in outdoor games this year. But is that the right call?
In general, the idea makes plenty of sense. Outdoor events are allowed larger crowds than indoor ones and various markets in the NFL have opened their stadiums to limited capacity crowds. The NHL is a gate-driven league and being able to host a higher volume of fans in a safe manner would be a big boost for the owners.
However, if you look at which teams are confirmed to have shown interest in the outdoor game idea, a majority of them are in states that are allowing limited numbers of fans into sporting events already. Boston, Los Angeles and Anaheim are the lone exceptions, with Los Angeles issuing new stay-at-home orders as COVID-19 numbers spike in the city and across the state of California.
In the Islanders case, the idea would be an exciting one to see come to fruition, but it remains unclear what benefit it would have for them financially. As of now, New York does not allow fans to attend professional sporting events in the state.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously expressed hope to allow limited numbers of fans to attend Buffalo Bills games. In early November Gov. Cuomo said it would be “reckless” to allow fans into the games, and with rising COVID-19 numbers across the state that likely won’t change any time soon.
So without fans likely allowed in the venue for the first month or so of the season anyway and the high cost it would be to rent out Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, it made sense to see the Islanders balk at the idea.