Feb. 20 will be a good day for Avalanche fans, who, according to reports, will enjoy watching their team play an NBC-televised outdoor game near the shores of Lake Tahoe. And since no fans will be in attendance at Edgewood Tahoe Resort, there’s no chance there will be another disaster that was the 2020 NHL Stadium Series at the Air Force Academy.
The Avs’ 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Falcon Stadium was hardly the worst thing that happened that day. A logistical nightmare, fan endured traffic jams, long concession/bathroom lines, and parking issues. One man died from a fall off a bridge near North Gate — where many fans had to walk because the ride-share program failed.
In hindsight, selling tickets to far more people than the stadium normally caters to and hosting an outdoor event with just two entrances/exits at 7,000 feet elevation in the dead of winter wasn’t a great idea.
But the Lake Tahoe idea sounds like a winner. At an elevation of 6,224 feet, the proposed games between the Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights (Feb. 20) and Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Feb. 21) have a chance to succeed because ticket-paying fans won’t exist.
The NHL’s Winter Classic and Stadium Series games are fun to watch on TV but sketchy, at best, to attend. You really don’t attend a hockey game in a stadium to watch great hockey. You go for the experience, and sometimes that experience can be bad like Air Force.
According to Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman, who broke the story about the “Outdoor Weekend” at Lake Tahoe, the NHL was looking for something unique during a season that won’t feature much fan involvement. Many teams like the Avalanche won’t have fans in their buildings to begin the season, if at all.
So the league went heavy on TV options and is willing to put up the money to stage two games in a beautiful mountain setting, with possible camera angles from drones.
That’s made-for-TV hockey.
Winners and losers. I took a dive into all 31 NHL teams to find which ones helped themselves the most during the offseason, and in my opinion, the Avalanche, Washington Capitals, and Montreal Canadiens were the most glaring winners.
The clear-cut loser: Chicago Blackhawks.
The Avs are winners because they added two strong pieces via trades in forward Brandon Saad and defenseman Devon Toews while giving up little — and that little includes trading inconsistent and often-bench defenseman Nikita Zadorov to Chicago for Saad. The deal also included the swap of minor-league defensemen, and it only would have made sense for the Blackhawks if they received an extra piece — a draft pick or prospect, and they did not.
I like what the Capitals did by hiring veteran coach Peter Laviolette and adding Stanley Cup-winning defensemen Justin Schultz and Zdeno Chara in free agency. Laviolette replaces Todd Reirdon, the former Caps assistant under Barry Trotz, who was a big step down from Trotz.
Montreal made a handful of key moves, adding forwards Tyler Tofolli, Josh Anderson, Michael Frolik and Corey Perry up front, Joel Edmonson on the blue line, and Jake Allen as a quality backup goalie to Carey Price.
Back to the Blackhawks. In addition to trading Saad for a defenseman the Avs didn’t want, they let goalie Corey Crawford sign with New Jersey and now have a combined $1.8 million invested in Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia to do the job. The situation in Chicago recently got worse with No. 1 center and team captain Jonathan Toews saying he’s out indefinitely with an illness and 2019 first-round draft pick Kirby Dach, a power forward, breaking his wrist as captain of Canada’s World Junior team.
Arguably the most popular team in the U.S., the heat is on the Hawks.