Outdoor NHL games? Kings among teams exploring the option
The NHL has yet to finalize plans for the upcoming season, but teams are already thinking outside the box in preparing for a campaign that will look far different during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the Kings, that has included the idea of hosting potential outdoor games if fans could attend, a long-shot possibility the team has explored during conversations with the league, as reported by multiple media reports Thursday.
With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in Southern California and local health officials beginning to re-introduce stricter stay-at-home orders, it seems unlikely that fans will be allowed to attend games at Staples Center for at least the start, if not all, of the 2020-21 season, which the league hopes to begin next month.
In theory, outdoor games could provide a safer setting for the return of spectators. And there are several factors that would make the Kings a logical potential host.
The Kings’ ownership group, AEG, also owns the Galaxy and its 27,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park soccer stadium in Carson. They would have a natural nearby opponent in the Ducks, who are one of several other clubs also reportedly interested in playing potential outdoor games this season. And they have a history of being involved in such events, having participated in three previous outdoor games including a 2014 Stadium Series meeting with the Ducks at Dodger Stadium.
Time is growing short for the NHL to meet its target of launching the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1, and the list of obstacles is growing longer.
But at this point, the feasibility of any outdoor plans, especially in the Los Angeles area, appear unlikely.
No NFL, Major League Baseball or major college football teams in the Southland have yet been allowed to welcome even reduced capacity crowds to their venues. Also, both the county and city of Los Angeles have recently implemented new regulations banning most public gatherings as COVID-19 cases have climbed this fall.
The structure of the upcoming NHL season remains unclear as well. The schedule is expected to be reduced to around 60-62 games. And divisions are likely to be temporarily realigned because of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada.
Neither the Kings nor Ducks have played since the beginning of the pandemic in March, when the NHL suspended the 2019-20 regular season. The league staged an expanded 24-team postseason at neutral site bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton over the summer, but neither Southern California franchise was high enough in the standings to qualify.
Staples Center was a finalist to host postseason games, before the NHL ultimately decided on the two Canadian cities.
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