The lights were again turned on at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, but this time it was not for a baseball game. This game was on the ice, and it was the second NHL game seen by fans at Yankee Stadium in a week. This time instead of the “cross river rivalry” between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, which saw the Rangers win in thrilling fashion 7-3 last Sunday, it was the “Battle of New York” between the Rangers and New York Islanders.
The outdoor game, the third of the four-part 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, attracted 50,027 fans as they braved the cold to watch the Islanders and Rangers take their historic rivalry back to hockey’s roots outside. Although still early in the season, this game came with big playoff implications for both. The Rangers were aiming to widen their gap over the third place Philadelphia Flyers, and the Islanders were looking to crawl closer to a wild-card spot in the East.
The first period proved to be a deadlock as both teams could not find the back of the net due to strong goaltender play from the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and the Islanders’ Evgeni Nabokov. And the second period appeared to be headed the same way until 1:27 remained and Islanders center Brock Nelson sent a one-timer past Lundqvist for the first goal of the game. The Rangers countered quickly though scoring only 40 seconds later when Rangers winger Benoit Pouliot corralled a bouncing puck and fired it past Nabokov to send the game to the second intermission tied.
Both teams came out firing in the third period, looking for the goal that could seal the win for their team. The Rangers gathered momentum after the Islanders took an ill-advised penalty just 23 seconds in to the period, and although they were unable to score on the power play, Daniel Carcillo used that momentum to score shortly after the penalty ended just over four minutes into the period. That goal was all Lundqvist needed to win the game for the Rangers, finishing with 30 saves and continuing his hot streak of late.
While the Rangers completed the sweep of their outdoor season and distanced themselves further from Philadelphia in the standings, they were not the only winners on Wednesday. The NHL has received an increased fanbase and everything that goes along with it this season due to the popularity of outdoor games. Since the NHL started the Winter Classic in 2008 and now added the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series this year, they have seen a drastic rise in popularity and profit due to the addition of nationally televised events, ticket sales and jersey sales.
The new Stadium Series jerseys have been a hot item this year, creating a rise in jersey sales across the country as a result. In addition, the creation of an outdoor game in California has opened up a whole new source of popularity for the NHL as the Dodger Stadium game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks proved to be a huge success for the league.
Not only do the fans love the outdoor games, but the players do as well. Rangers’ defenseman Marc Staal commented that: “These [outdoor games] are a ton of fun to play in. I could play in 50 of these in a year. It’s a lot of fun being out in that atmosphere.”
Not only are these outdoor games fun for everyone involved — whether they are playing, at the game watching, or watching from home — they are also a great source of popularity and revenue for the league. At this rate, we will begin to see a lot more outdoor games in the future which is a win-win for everyone.