The NHL confirmed the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins will play an outdoor game in 2014, the league announced Wednesday morning.
The contest will be held at Chicago's Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears, on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 8 p.m., ET. Coors Light has been announced as the primary sponsor of the game, as well as of the NHL Stadium Series, which makes it clear that more outdoor games are on the horizon.
This will mark the second time in as many years that an outdoor hockey event will be hosted at Soldier Field. In February, the Hockey City Classic was held, which featured a double-header of college hockey action between four different teams.
This confirmation substantiates a report from earlier this year that stated the NHL was planning to hold five auxiliary games to the league's outdoor staple, the Winter Classic. In the press release, it's stated more outdoor regular season games will be announced in the coming weeks.
Much debate has been spawned by the concept of multiple outdoor games, as some are concerned about the league diluting the brand established by the Winter Classic.
While it might be a minor alteration, it should be noted that the league is separating the marketing of the classic and the "Stadium Series" by its choice of sponsors. Bridgestone remains the Winter Classic sponsor, while Coors Light appears to be the sponsor of the other five games. It seems likely the league will still use the Winter Classic as the central point of the outdoor slate, while the other games will act as smaller regional events. In fact, the league has basically said as much whenever referring to the idea.
By labeling it the Stadium Series, the NHL is attempting to differentiate the Winter Classic from the other outdoor games. Whether that marketing plan proves to be successful remains to be seen. However, it's clear the league is attempting to develop on the success of the Winter Classic in order to generate more revenue and grow the game.
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