NHL Loves Outdoor Games: Toronto Maple Leafs And Washington Capitals in Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, MD - MARCH 03: Leo Komarov #47 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals battle for the puck during the third period in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Many people grow up in the Great White North and abroad playing hockey on the fresh sheet of ice in the rich kid’s backyard or at the local park. For most people, it is some of their fondest memories of growing up. Some, to this day, still lace up the skates and take to the outdoor ice with their buddies. Instead of coming home for hot chocolate, they will hit up the local bar and watch some hockey. That is why the NHL loves outdoor games. The NHL along with the TV companies like NBC and Sportsnet make a boatload of money off TV ratings and more importantly, ad revenue.

Why The NHL Love Outdoor Games

Fans cling on to their nostalgic memories of hitting the ice and dreaming to be their favourite player like Dave Keon. TV executives get to see the ratings go through the roof. Not to mention, that the NHL gets to expose the game to a market that has other major sports teams to keep their eyes on.

In this particular situation, this game features two exciting teams – the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals – battling it out after an exciting first-round playoff series last year which saw the young Buds take it to the experienced and Cup hopeful Washington Capitals. Although the Leafs lost in six games to Washinton, their play, especially the play of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Frederik Andersen, opened the eyes of the hockey world of what might be to come for this young and talent Maple Leafs club.

The NHL, along with TV execs, knew this was the game to schedule for the NHL Stadium Series for various reasons.

What Are Those Reasons?

Ratings are the biggest reason why the powers that be love this type of outdoor game. Ideally, they would like to see two American teams play in the prime time game, the Leafs are a rare exception for the corporate heads. The reason for that being, the 2014 Winter Classic between the Toronto Maples Leafs and the Detriot Red Wings at Michigan Stadium – a game that ended in a 3-2 shootout win for the Maple Leafs – drew one of the biggest viewing audiences NBC has ever seen for an outdoor hockey game at 4.40 million viewers. Not forgetting to mention, 105,491 fans attended the game in Ann Arbor, MI. Making it one of the biggest hockey games in terms of attendance of its time. Meaning, it was one of the most profitable games of all-time. That is why the Leafs are playing in the game on Saturday night.

What Else Makes Sense About This Game?

Geographically speaking, Annapolis, Maryland is not an “ideal” hockey city. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium plays host to college football games. In the area, hockey is not a huge hit. It does not mean that there is no market, it is just that the NHL has not really tapped into it yet until this Stadium Series game.

It makes all the sense in the world for the NHL to want to expose the game to this market. The Capitals still remain to be a good team. Despite the Caps inability to make it deep into the playoffs. Of course, there is a fair share of people that watch hockey, but the NHL’s goal is to tap into the casuals and make them hardcore fans that are willing to pay for officially licenced NHL products, tune into the NBC Sports games and maybe invest in NHL Centre Ice. That’s how one grows a market. As always, Rome was not built overnight; It was built in a lifetime. This is how to introduce the game to people that are not into hockey.

How Did Saturday’s Game Down?

As of now, it is too hard to tell. The game was interesting, but it was not anything special. The Washington Capitals ran away with it. Evgeny Kuznetsov opened up the game with a powerplay goal, his 20th goal of the season. The Leafs quickly responded with a goal from Zach Hyman. At that time, it looked like it was going to be a closely contested game between the two former playoff opponents. Then Alex Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the season and Nicklas Backstrom scored a powerplay goal to make it 3-1. Leafs Nazem Kadri scored to make it 3-2 in the second period. The Capitals scored another two goals to put the game away and dominated the Leafs until the final buzzer.

Did Saturday’s Game Do The Trick?

In terms of entertainment, the game was a bit boring. Once Washington got ahead 4-2 the game was slow paced and it seemed like the level of competition went down. Most Canadians stuck around to watch Coach’s Corner and a bit of the second period and probably dipped off. The power outage did not help much. It was a momentum drainer if there was any at that time.

NBC shifted the last few minutes of the third period onto their sports channel. That probably means the ratings were trash. That will not be known anytime soon, but one can suspect they did not fair well.

Are Outdoor Games Really Worth It In The Long Run?

Yes, definitely they are! They are cash cows and when a person is running a business, the end goal is to make money. This spectacle is an easy way to do that. It is not any WrestleMania or Super Bowl, but these games really do draw a crowd one way or another. Hockey fans prove that by buying tickets and watching the games on TV. The better the ratings are, the more NBC can charge advertisers to advertise during the game. It is a great way to maximize profits well-creating something that people can get more nostalgia from. No one can predict if a game is going to be good or not. In this case, the game sucked, but who is to say the next will? That is what keeps people coming back.

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