David Duprey/AP
Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate a goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period of
NHL Winter Classic outdoor hockey game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park,
N.Y. (AP)

Basketball and Hockey Take it Outside

July 18, 2008 03:37 PM
by Denis Cummings
Following the success of the NHL’s 2008 Winter Classic, the NHL, NBA and WNBA are all staging games outdoors this season.

30-Second Summary

On July 19, the WNBA’s New York Liberty will play outdoors at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the first outdoor professional basketball game ever played in the United States. The game comes just days after the NHL officially announced that it will play a game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, part of what may become an annual outdoor event.

There have been several professional outdoor games in the 20th century—the NBA and NHL played exhibition games in 1972 and 1991—but the current trend for outdoor games began in the NCAA. In 2000, the Arizona State women’s basketball team hosted 16,000 fans in an outdoor baseball stadium.

A year later, Michigan State held a hockey game against archrival Michigan in its football stadium. The game attracted 74,554 fans—a record for a hockey game—and was considered a resounding success. “This could be a breakthrough game for the sport of hockey,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.

It was; that success encouraged the Edmonton Oilers to host an outdoor game in 2003, and more than 57,000 fans braved sub-zero temperatures to see it.

On New Year’s Day 2008, the NHL held its second outdoor regular-season game, this time in Buffalo. Some 70,000 fans and the NHL’s largest American television audience in 12 years watched the Sabres and Penguins play through wind and snow, a rare ratings success for the NHL. The league hopes to make the “Winter Classic” an annual event.

The NBA and WNBA are now looking to capitalize on the outdoor trend. The NBA will play an exhibition game on a California tennis court in October.

Headline Links: Upcoming outdoor games

Background: History of indoor sports played outdoors


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