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From the Branches: Braving the great outdoors

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Will some NHL teams be playing their home games outside this season?

Frozen Fenway 2017 - Hockey East Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported yesterday that apparently, four NHL teams have considered the option of holding games outdoors in the 2021 season, as a way to enable more spectators (and, more importantly, more ticket revenue). While a stab in the dark at this time, it’s saying something about the deep weirdness of this whole situation that a plan like this is a real possibility.

The relevant teams Friedman mentioned are the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, and Los Angeles Kings. Pierre LeBrun in the Athletic added that the Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, and Florida Panthers are all also investigating the concept.

It was the Kings who first came up with the idea, which makes sense as they also own a MLS stadium that they could potentially share with Anaheim, although I’m still not sure how they plan to deal with the physics issue of ice melting when it’s warm outside. I could see making it work for one game, but multiple? Across the country and at the other end of the temperature continuum, the Bruins are apparently considering using Fenway Park, which does get used for outdoor NCAA hockey games annually, so they have experience setting up and maintaining a rink. Thing is, it’s also Boston, in January, and as someone who’s attended a Frozen Fenway game, it takes weeks for your toes to fully defrost.

Issues of cost, practicality, and turning Bruins fans into beer-scented popsicles aside, there’s the additional hurdle of getting other teams, and the players themselves, to agree to the plan. Playing a hockey game outdoors (on shitty ice, possibly in shitty weather) is fine for a one-off novelty but loses a lot of its childhood-pond-hockey rose-tinted-nostalgia luster when one team is playing a good deal of its games on a rink that’s prone to developing gigantic water puddles and their division rival is setting up somewhere fully climate-controlled. And, you know, with a roof. I think we’re collectively underrating the importance of roofs.

News and links for your Friday:

NHLPA weighing options if NHL cancels season - TSN.ca

Yost: Defencemen have changed the NHL’s offensive landscape - TSN.ca

TSN: Lafrenière Not Expected to Join Canada for 2021 World Junior Championship - Blueshirt Banter
With the NHL on hiatus, the 19-year-old was a potential option for Canada’s roster.

Road to World Juniors: Amirov, Mukhamadullin : News : Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)
The competition between Rodion Amirov and Shakir Mukhamadullin is electric. One Salavat Yulaev coach summarizes the dynamic in a single word: “intense.”

Sweden’s named their preliminary roster for World Juniors:

In other WJC-related hockey news, it’s always a good sign when someone has to come out and make an announcement that an event is NOT being moved:

Stay safe, wear a mask, and enjoy your Friday.