When the NHL held the first outdoor game, there was only one per season, but this season the league announced there would be seven outdoor games this season. That means almost half of the teams in the NHL will play an outdoor game next year, so when do the Hurricanes get their shot?
Not a historic franchise - The teams that have played in the Winter Classic previously are all storied franchises – Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, etc. But this is something the Hurricanes are not. They’ve only been in Carolina for 16 years. They did win the Stanley Cup in 2006, but if you ask a non-hockey fan of NHL teams, the Canes will not be the first ones to come to mind in most cases. It may be because they have had mediocre seasons for the past few years, but the Hurricanes have never really gotten into the NHL spotlight.
No Great Rivalry – The Hurricanes have OK rivalries with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals, but Hurricanes-Lightning doesn’t have the same ring as Flyers-Rangers or Red Wings-Blackhawks. Not every outdoor game has to be a rivalry, but the teams are generally ones with a strong following like the Buffalo Sabres, which the Hurricanes do not really have.
Historic Franchise – With 14 teams competing outdoors this season not every one is going to include historic teams. One game will feature the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. No knock on the Ducks, but they are not on the same level as the Red Wings or Toronto Maple Leafs. This was a problem when there was one outdoor game per season, but with six more taking place in a year, smaller teams will have the opportunity to get outside to play.
Rivalry – With new divisions coming next season, the Hurricanes have the possibility of creating a rivalry with a new team. One option could be the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are moving into the same division as the Canes and have no existing rivalries with the other teams. But a rivalry does not necessarily have to exist for an outdoor game to be played.
The NHL is also holding the Ducks-Kings game in Los Angeles, so they are working on ways to play in warmer markets, which should be a good thing for the Canes.
If the NHL continues to go with seven or more outdoor games per season, the Hurricanes should have a shot at an outdoor game in the near future. Every team should get a chance to play outside and the Canes may get their shot in the 2014-15 season.