If the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks can skate around for three periods of an official National Hockey League game at Dodger Stadium, why not us?
Why not the South Carolina Stingrays playing ice hockey outside in the fresh Lowcountry air?
Imagine the Stingrays vs. Greenville Road Warriors at The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium, on the pitch at Battery's Blackbaud Stadium or between the dugouts at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park.
Stingrays management is already imagining.
"There is a huge cost associated with outdoor hockey," Stingrays President Rob Concannon said Tuesday. "At the end of the day, it would be a huge risk, you can never predict Mother Nature. But we love the idea, and we love what we think it would do for hockey in the Charleston area."
Baseball people are nudging the Stingrays outside. The original push came six months ago from the Charleston RiverDogs' Melissa McCants Azevedo, Vice President of Special Events, and Kristen Wolfe, Special Events Manager.
"We're always looking to have unique events that appeal to the community," RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols said.
Cool idea (pardon the pun, pass the hot chocolate).
Target date: "No definite plans," Concannon said.
Biggest need: A major sponsor.
The Stingrays and RiverDogs are waiting on financial figures from other outdoor hockey venues, a growing list.
The NHL introduced its Winter Classic concept in 2008 with a Pittsburgh Penguins-Buffalo Sabres game at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was more successful than ever this New Year's Day as 105,491 fans showed up at Michigan Stadium to watch the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.
This season, NHL's Stadium Series began last weekend as a grand success with games at Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium (New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils). There are two more Stadium Series games - the Rangers and Islanders at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night, the Penguins vs. the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field on March 1 - plus an outdoors Heritage Classic game in Vancouver, with the Canucks facing the Ottawa Senators.
"It's awesome for the sport of hockey," Concannon said. "Over the last few years there have been more (NHL) games on NBC, and then when you add something into the mix like the popularity of these outdoor games, it can only help the sport."
L.A., The Bronx, Toledo
College hockey teams are cashing in outdoors. The Big Chill at the Big House, a 2010 Michigan-Michigan State game in Ann Arbor, drew 113,411 fans. Wisconsin and Ohio State played at Green Bay's Lambeau Field.
Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park is best known as home of the College World Series but hosted an outdoor hockey minor league/college doubleheader last February.
"We're in our 21st year in Charleston and there are still a lot of people who haven't been to a game," said Concannon, formerly one of the Stingrays' most popular players. "Hopefully, with these NHL games being on television, it gives them a little bit of a bug to come up to the North Charleston Coliseum and check us out."
The Toledo Walleye plan to host the first two ECHL outdoor games, against Kalamazoo on Dec. 27, 2014, and against Fort Wayne on Jan. 3, 2015, both as part of Toledo's Winterfest celebration. The games are set for Fifth Third Field, home of minor league baseball's Toledo Mud Hens.
Outside in Las Vegas
Oh, the agony of irony. While discussing whether the weather might be too warm in the Lowcountry to have a winter sport played outdoors, a wintry blast forced the Stingrays to postpone their scheduled Tuesday night home game against the Orlando Solar Bears.
But outdoor hockey technology has conquered hotter issues than anything Charleston is likely to endure. Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings played a 1991 exhibition game in Las Vegas against the New York Rangers played on a rink set up on the parking lot of the Caesars Palace casino.
Game-time temperature: 85 degrees.
Charleston's Marion Square has had an ice skating rink.
Mount Pleasant just celebrated Winterfest.
If outdoor hockey worked in L.A., it can work alongside the Ashley River.
"It would be fun to have other winter events, too," Concannon said. "Have the Burke High School band out there, have a lot of people drinking iced tea and mint juleps and make it more than just a game."
Hopefully, they start building a penalty box at The Joe some baseball off-season soon.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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