Will the Kings-Sharks outdoor game be a stunning spectacle or an open-air atrocity?
In early August it was announced that the San Jose Sharks would not only be finally making their long-awaited outdoor debut, they would be doing so in their backyard. The NHL’s 2015 Coors Light Stadium Series would be taking place in Santa Clara’s Levi Stadium, and the Sharks would be assuming the duties of the home team.
In early August it was also announced who San Jose would be playing outside on Feb. 21, but there was not nearly the same amount of buzz coming from the Sharks’ opponent in the weeks that followed. Possibly because that team was still preoccupied with celebrating some award thing a couple months earlier.
Yep, that’s the one
But now that training camp is upon us and the 2014-15 season is almost here, it is only fair to consider the implications of the Kings’ second outdoor game in two seasons. But while the hype machine for the Stadium Series is already whirring at full speed, talking about heated rivalries-this and outdoor aesthetics-that, it is not the worst idea to take a step back and try to see the big picture.
So here is my attempt to try and lay out the positives and negatives that come with such a high-profile event, and to ultimately decide whether or not the 2015 Stadium Series is a good thing for the Kings.
Pro: Every time the NHL takes its product outdoors it is another fresh reminder of the sheer beauty and majesty of the sport of hockey. The cliché is beaten into the ground but it truly is hockey at its most pure form. Every chance a team has to play in such an event and every chance a fan base has to participate in one should be cherished, because it truly is a special experience and you never know when the next chance will come.
Con: On second though, the matchup at Levi Stadium will mark the 12th outdoor game the NHL has played in the last six years. The Rangers, Flyers and Capitals have seven appearances among them. If this outdoor fad was any more played out Bettman would probably start handing outdoor games to any old team, even those from a market without a trace of enthusiasm for the sport or any hockey history to boot. Like Minnesota.
But where do you put the beach volleyball court?
Pro: Unlike the defensive snooze-fest that occurred last year at Dodger Stadium, the 2015 matchup between the Sharks and Kings is sure to be one with loads of offensive excitement. Los Angeles rode a retooled and reenergized forward core to the top of the mountain in the playoffs, and is bringing back just about all the pieces to defend their crown. As long as Marian Gaborik can keep his groin in one piece, the Kings should have no problem putting at least a few on the board, if not more on Feb. 21, making for a much more appealing game to Kings fans than their 2014 dud against the Ducks. Especially considering the Sharks goaltending, which is known for cracking when the lights are at their brightest.
Con: Now that everything in the previous has been written down, none of it is going to happen. Gaborik will be on the IR by December, the Kings will hit their mid-season scoring slump right on time, Niemi and/or Stalock will stand on his head and the Sharks will win in shutout fashion, probably like 6-0.
Pro: One of the best parts of NHL’s outdoor series, has been the awesome retro jerseys the participants design for the games. The games have been an opportunity for teams with rich histories like the Penguins, Maple Leafs and Red Wings to take a step back in time and show off some great throwback sweaters.
Recently the Stadium Series games have taken a more modern approach to designing the specialty jerseys. In 2014 the Kings’ uniforms were sharp and the expectations should be no different in 2015. Longtime fans should revel in the opportunity to accept another jersey into their Kings collection.
Con: If the trend of putting regional emblems on the shoulders continues like it did with the “LA” and “OC” patches last year, good luck trying to make it through the game while seeing this on the Sharks’ jersey.
Pro: Another crack at a high-profile game like this allows the Kings a chance to redeem themselves after faltering under the Dodger Stadium lights a year ago. A victory against the Sharks brings them above the .500 mark outside (including the game at Caesars Palace in 1991), and will be another opportunity to gain some bragging rights over their California rivals.
Con: Do the Kings really need more bragging rights over the Sharks? Ever hear of a little thing called the #ReverseSweep? The Kings essentially tore out the Sharks’ souls, emptied about four magazines of an AK47 into them, and proceeded to defecate on the annihilated pile of nothingness that was the San Jose Sharks organization. They aren’t done yet either, they are raising the Stanley Cup banner right in the Sharks’ faces. A championship run that all started with laying an egg at the Stadium Series. I’m not saying winning at Levi Stadium could sabotage all chance of the third Cup in four years, but that’s exactly what I am saying. If it ain’t broke don’t break it. Also after what we did to them last year it’s a nice gesture to give the Sharks something to celebrate.
There’s a similar banner hanging at the Honda Center
The Verdict: Inconclusive. Who is to say if participating in another outdoor game is good for the Kings, when it comes down to it the game is just one out of 82. It’s probably good for the exposure of the league and good for growing the game in California and yadda-yadda-yadda, but in all honesty it is probably just one big money grab.
As a Kings fan the best way to look at the outdoor game against San Jose is as a win-win situation. The Kings lose, and they are right where they were a year ago. All they need to do is rally the troops, pick up a free agent from Columbus (cough Hartnell cough) and next thing you know a high-profile public figure is cussing in front of a podium at Staples Center at yet another Stanley Cup rally.
If the Kings win, that’s just one more thing they are better than San Jose at. Also it would make Logan Couture sad, and if there is anything that gets me excited, it’s making Logan Couture sad.