The NHL could possibly open the 2020-21 NHL season in one of the most beautiful locations in all of Canada. According to a report by Mark Zwolinski of the Star, the NHL has floated around the idea of opening the new season with an outdoor game at Alberta’s Lake Louise.
The glacial lake within Banff National Park is famous for its Rocky Mountain backdrop and skating in the winter. According to Zwolinkski’s source, the NHL has internally discussed the frozen lake as a possible location for opening day of the new NHL season.
The reports states that discussions are in the early stages and there would certainly be hurdles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The story also cites concerns around schedule, as hotels in the area are usually packed during the holiday season. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently announced January 1st, 2021 as the expected start date for the new NHL season.
This Instagram video by @pedromcbride that shows him skating on the lake gives you an idea of how awesome a game between two NHL team at this location would be:
Here’s another look at the lake with the incredible backdrop:
The NHL are no strangers to outdoor games, as there have been over 30 NHL games played outdoors in the last decade. It’s going to be hard for any outdoor game to top the the 2014 Winter Classic at the Big House in Michigan between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. The stadium had 105,491 hockey fans in attendance for an instant classic that saw Toronto win in a shootout on a Tyler Bozak goal.
The Winter Classic is played on New Year’s Day every year, so it isn’t surprising that the league wants to continue the tradition and open the season with an outdoor game on January 1st. The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues were previously scheduled to play the 2021 Winter Classic at Target Field, but the event is in jeopardy due to the pandemic. It’s unclear which two teams would be playing at Lake Louise, but you have to think given the location, that the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers would be front-runners.
The Flames and Oilers rivalry escalated to the point of a goalie fight in 2019-20 and was must-watch television every game. The fourth matchup of the season produced a whopping 102 penalty minutes, including the aforementioned goalie fight, and also saw a great feud between Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian. The Battle of Alberta taking the rivalry outdoors to Lake Louise would simply be outstanding.
Considering how cold the weather gets on the lake and the lack of sunlight, the NHL may choose to play several games during a short period of time. There will be plenty of effort required to pull something like this off, so the league could decide to make the most of it with a small tournament featuring canadian teams.
There are certainly some staggering logistics that would be required to make this work, but the result would be something unlike hockey fans have ever seen before. The NHL did a terriffic job executing the Return-To-Play plan, so if they somehow found a way to make this happen, Bettman’s redemption arc would be something to behold.