Hockey fans are well versed in the fact that the league’s financials have been hit hard thanks to the ongoing pandemic.
With revenue streams down, the league being unable to allow fans in arenas is another mountain owners needed to overcome and find a solution to play hockey next season. While there are sponsorship and television deals for the league, local revenue generated by tickets, merchandise, and in-arena purchases is another huge money-maker for ownership groups.
This standstill in potential revenue is one of the main reasons the league and Players Association have not announced the start date for next season. With the Toronto/Edmonton bubble being too costly for an entire season, the league will need to play their schedule similar to the MLB, NFL, and NBA – with travel.
Commissioner Gary Bettman recently warned players that the financial burden would have to fall on the players and it is just a matter of when this will happen.
While fans are predicted to be denied access into the arena for games, certain owners are searching for other options to earn gate revenue as well as have fans in the stadium. The workaround? Having their games outdoors.
Multiple teams have expressed interest in playing their games outdoors to increase revenue for their respective clubs.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins have looked into the possibility of having their games played outside. Research suggests that COVID is less likely to spread outdoors.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun added to Friedman’s report, indicating that the Predators, Hurricanes, and Stars were among another group that have spoken about hosting games in outdoor venues.
LeBrun also noted that none of the 7 Canadian NHL franchises have announced desires to host games outdoors, and teams like the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders said no to the league about hosting games outdoors, for a variety of reasons.
A handful of NFL teams have fans in attendance for their games, but other teams like the San Francisco 49ers have had to bail from their original stadium due to government mandates.
Using Pittsburgh as an example and Heinz Field, the Penguins are hoping that by January and February, fans may be allowed back into outdoor events – way before fans would be allowed inside arenas.
While the thought process is intriguing, NHL analysts aren’t sold on the idea that the teams or the league will be able to go through with outdoor games. There is a belief that the additional costs of hosting outdoor games would offset any potential revenue from fans entering stadiums in a limited capacity.
Reports also suggest that the NHL and NHLPA have been in discussion over the past few days with hope to resume the season, but nothing definitive has been documented.