Friday, January 1, 2010

My Winter Classic-inspired idea for a new Edmonton arena complex

Anyone who watches the NHL Winter Classic can see that hockey played outdoors has a certain cache that is hard to match.  There's plenty of talk about adding more Winter Classic games; a US game-Canada game doubleheader might work and be an appropriate hat tip to our neighbors to the north, but I think that adding additional dates dilutes the unique value of the event.  If the NHL is smart, they will keep the Winter Classic unique as a New Year's Day event.

That's not to say that outdoor hockey shouldn't be played during the regular season, though.  The key is to set it up in a way that makes sense.  It's my opinion that the best way to do it would be to try something that currently doesn't exist in the National Hockey League: TWO sheets of ice, one indoor and one outdoor, on the same property.

Before you dismiss me entirely, hear this idea out.

I haven't run the numbers or anything, but logic dictates that such an idea would need to happen in a very cold weather site to ensure that an outdoor facility would have sufficient use.  That's where Edmonton comes in.  Being in Alberta, it's far enough north - and remember that Edmonton hosted the original Heritage Classic.  In addition, Edmonton is currently considering building a new arena.

As it would be a new facility, a wise architect could design it such that the seating chart would be identical for the two sheets of ice - making ticket sales easier.  If the two rinks were adjacent, you could even have skyboxes looking out on both sides to save money and increase the unique quality of the facility.  Parking would be shared for both sheets of ice, as would rink maintenance equipment like refridgeration and zambonis.  I gather that Edmonton is looking closely at the Columbus Arena District as a model, and such a district with both indoor and outdoor rinks would be totally unique and a true destination for the Edmonton community.

So, what about the actual game play?  That's where it gets fun.  If Edmonton has 2 playing options, they can choose where they want to play and get a home ice advantage that no NHL team could match.  The Boston Red Sox have the Green Monster; Edmonton could have the threat of playing outdoor hockey in its back pocket.  If it's just too cold (a very real possibility), they could play inside.  If they want to freeze some wimpy American teams into submission, however, they can put the game outside.  And they could make the call on next to no notice, or schedule weekend matinees...easy as pie.

I still presume that the majority of NHL games would be played indoors.  Hockey is played in the cold winter months, and people want to come inside to warm up.  At the same time, if the outdoor arena is built in an arena district, however, it can still have use as a public skating facility or host amateur competitive games with minimal inconvenience to the Oilers.

I'm sure that there's much more to think through, and this idea is about as likely as real health care reform in America, but it's fun to consider...and I blog for the fun of it.  So whaddya think?  Would this not be a cool idea for the NHL?

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