The Wild, which waited years to finally land a Winter Classic, had to postpone that outdoor Jan. 1 game at Target Field because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But that doesn't necessarily mean Minnesota should stop thinking about the benefit of outdoor ice this season.
Per a recent ESPN.com report:
Several NHL teams are are exploring the possibility of playing some 2020-21 home games in outdoor venues and in front of fans if local COVID-19 restrictions on mass gatherings would allow for them.
The Wild was not listed among those teams, but the list was rather extensive. Among those reportedly exploring the idea: the Bruins, Kings, Ducks, Penguins, Hurricanes, Stars and Predators.
On its face, it makes some sense. NHL teams are more dependent on gate revenue than their peers in the NBA, NFL and NBA because the NHL's TV/media contract is not as large.
While much of the United States is currently in the grips of an explosion of virus cases that have created additional restrictions — Minnesota, for instance, does not allow public gathering of more than 250 people — it is at least possible to spin forward a few months to an improving reality.
As the NHL season progresses and a vaccine potentially reaches more and more people, some restrictions on crowds might start to lift — particularly outdoors, which has proved to be a safer environment than indoor air during the pandemic.
Would it be worth it to the Wild to play games at, say, 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium — even at a limited capacity — if restrictions were eased?
That's hard to say. When the Wild played at TCF Bank Stadium against Chicago in 2016 (Photo above via the Star Tribune's Aaron Lavinsky), the NHL reportedly paid $800,000 in rent for access to the facility.
But with the NHL lurching toward a season without a start date yet — maybe 52 or 56 games starting in mid-January? — it's clear no idea should be dismissed out of hand.
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