After watching the Penguins play in two NHL Winter Classics (the inaugural event in Buffalo back in 2008 and again in 2011), fans in Pittsburgh probably thought they wouldn’t see their team play in another outdoor game for a long time.
That didn’t turn out to be the case.
The NHL announced on Wednesday that the Chicago Blackhawks will host the Penguins in a regular-season outdoor NHL game at Soldier Field on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 8 p.m. ET.
The event is part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series – a group of NHL regular-season games planned for outdoor locations during the 2013-14 season. The NHL plans to announce more games as part of the series in the coming weeks.
“We’re obviously very excited,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told pittsburghpenguins.com. “It’s something that (NHL chief operating officer John Collins) and his team have been conceiving and thinking about for a number of years now. And I think next year, and next season, it creates a number of unique opportunities that make a game in Soldier Field with the Penguins and Blackhawks really, really exciting. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Why choose the Penguins and the Blackhawks, who have both already participated in Winter Classics (Chicago hosted Detroit in 2009 at Wrigley Field) to play each other as part of this series? Well, the two teams – who finished the regular season with the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences and have both won Stanley Cups within the last five years – aren’t just two of the NHL’s most successful and exciting teams. They also have some of the most passionate and loyal fanbases in all of sports.
For example, as Collins referenced, ROOT SPORTS’ ratings for Penguins broadcasts this regular season lead all U.S.-based MLB, NBA and NHL teams since 2002. That just goes to show how dedicated their fans are, and the Chicago market is right there with Pittsburgh.
This outdoor event is a reward, if you will, for those fanbases.
“This is now the third outdoor game that (the Penguins have) agreed to participate in, including getting the ball rolling with that first game up in Buffalo for the Winter Classic,” Collins said. “We know what kind of draw Pittsburgh is and on the road. Chicago has been, along with the Penguins, one of the great renaissance stories in all of sports. I know this week there was a pretty big front-page article in the Sports Business Journal about how the Penguins regional ratings on their RSN are outranking really any other team in any sport. It was an amazing story. The Blackhawks story in Chicago and the renaissance there is definitely a case study for all sports, so you’ve got two great franchises that have great individual stories. Chicago was a great market for us when we played at Wrigley, and the opportunity to go into another iconic venue in Soldier Field in Chicago, a very important media market, a big market, I think is just a tremendous opportunity. It should be a great event.”
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