Need for fans cited as NHL postpones signature events

The National Hockey League (NHL) has announced the postponement of its 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend events, stating fan participation is crucial to their successful staging.

The Winter Classic, featuring the Minnesota Wild facing the St. Louis Blues at Target Field (pictured) in Minneapolis, home of Major League Baseball (MLB) team Minnesota Twins, was originally scheduled for January 1. The NHL’s annual outdoors game was this year held on New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, with a sold-out crowd of 85,630 making it the League’s second-most attended game in history.

The Florida Panthers were to host the 2021 All-Star Weekend at BB&T Center from January 29-30, after the Blues’ Enterprise Center staged this year’s event. Both of 2021’s events have now been posted due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from COVID-19, but the NHL said it intends to return to both Minnesota and Florida for the events in the near future.

“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” said NHL senior executive vice-president and chief content officer Steve Mayer.

“Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended.

“We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

The NHL stressed that yesterday’s (Thursday’s) announcement does not impact the joint declaration by the NHL and National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) on October 6 targeting on or around January 1 as the start date for the upcoming season.

The NHL completed its 2019-20 season last month utilising centralised hubs in the Canadian cities of Toronto and Edmonton.

Image: Terry Foote/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size