Hockey at Rose Bowl: It’s a thought
The year is new, college football has gotten old. There’s a hockey game in town, so you put on a T-shirt and flip-flops and head to . . .
The Rose Bowl.
Go ahead, laugh. It’s not entirely a fantasy.
NHL executives, justifiably proud of the Winter Classic game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field on New Year’s Day, have been brainstorming about potential sites for future outdoor games. Chief Operating Officer John Collins said the league “might even be able to have a night game out at the Rose Bowl,” Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.
Technologically, it’s possible.
The NHL has invested more than $1 million on a refrigeration system and portable rink that can be set up almost anywhere. Dan Craig, the ice-making guru who helped craft a surface for Wrigley Field that was better than many NHL rinks, recently said an outdoor game could be played in California if a canopy were placed above the ice to shield it from direct sunlight.
“I will never say never,” he said, “because when I started with the National Hockey League 10 years ago, nobody told me that I’d be doing a hockey rink in Wrigley Field.”
There’s nothing now planned for the Rose Bowl or anywhere else, according to Bernadette Mansur, the NHL’s senior vice president of communications. She added that the Bloomberg story was inaccurate in saying NHL officials had visited Las Vegas to scout game sites when they were really discussing moving the annual awards show there from Toronto.
She said the league has received inquiries about bringing the Winter Classic to New York, Washington, Detroit, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell proposed a home-and-home series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium.
No one from Southern California has made a formal approach, but the NHL is awaiting your call.
“The Rose Bowl is an iconic stadium,” Mansur said. “As we plan further out with the Winter Classic, you have to think of the majesty of playing in the Rose Bowl.”
Wrigley Field infused this year’s game with a wonderful sense of absurdity. The hand-operated scoreboard, L trains zipping past and fans perched on rooftops across the street created a festive atmosphere. Hell had, indeed, frozen over before the Cubs won the World Series again.
The Rose Bowl would be equally photogenic with its palm trees, mountains and splendid history.
There is, of course, one itty-bitty obstacle.
“Jan. 1 would not work for us,” said Darryl Dunn, general manager of the Rose Bowl.
“But I know about the success of the game in Chicago. It would be a first for us. The Rose Bowl’s history has included a number of great events, but one thing we’ve never had is a hockey game.”
Dunn said he had informally discussed the idea with Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations and longtime advocate of playing an outdoor game here.
Robitaille played for the Kings in a 1991 outdoor exhibition game on a temporary rink in Las Vegas. The ice was decent in 85-degree temperatures but that might be the only NHL game ever interrupted by invasions of grasshoppers.
Relatively warm air temperatures in Southern California wouldn’t bother the players, Robitaille contended.
“I played inside the old Boston Garden, where it was 80, 85 degrees,” he said. “A lot of buildings I played in the playoffs were hot.”
His vision features the Kings playing the Ducks or New York Rangers at the Rose Bowl or Dodger Stadium. The Kings and Dodgers have a business relationship, so why not extend that to include an outdoor game?
“It would be a great thing,” Robitaille said.
Josh Rawitch, a Dodgers spokesman, didn’t rule it out.
“There have not been any discussions about bringing the NHL to Dodger Stadium,” he said via e-mail, “but organizationally, we’re known to be pretty open-minded about things.”
This may never come to pass. The new Yankee Stadium probably has the inside track for the next Winter Classic, and that would be a fine site and a media magnet.
But we can dream. In the middle of a season that’s growing drearier by the day for the Kings and remains cloudy for the Ducks, dreams may be all that local hockey fans will have.