The NHL will have to be creative these days, and this is at least a creative idea, have to give credit there. Could the Penguins be playing games in 2021 outdoors? Elliotte Friedman at Sportsnet:
Let’s begin this quickie blog with a caveat: it’s a long shot.
But…at least four NHL teams are investigating the possibility of playing home games in outdoor stadia if it will allow them to have fans in attendance.
Again, there are no guarantees in COVID times, “but it is being explored,” one executive said Wednesday.
None of the clubs would comment, but they are Anaheim, Boston, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have looked into both Heinz Field and PNC Park. (Major problem with Heinz Field: the Steelers may need it until late January.)
There are significant hurdles, starting with cost. Even the most no-frills outdoor event would run into the millions. Last month, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic (via email), “It’s not likely (we’ll play more games outdoors),” as 2020-21 plans don’t “adequately take into account the costs associated.”
The Penguins have played two outdoor games in Heinz Field, one against the Capitals in 2011 and another against the Flyers in 2017. Those were also league-run events, with the full might of the NHL’s operation crews and ice gurus to get everything going.
That would be a significant issue, and as Friedman mentions, outdoor games are not cheap.
“Based on the new orders and advisories from the State of Pennsylvania that go into effect [last] Friday, unfortunately we will not be permitted to host fans in the seating bowl on Sunday at Heinz Field for our rescheduled game against the Baltimore Ravens. The new state orders will not permit more than 2,500 people at our games, including players, coaches, stadium staff, etc.”
So that’s also a really big problem, the Steelers can’t host fans right now, so obviously the Penguins couldn’t either. That would stop this idea in its tracks, if fans can’t attend, which they can’t in December 2020, would they for an NHL season? The current conditions worsening and more restrictions and governmental orders/advisories being released, this doesn’t look likely to change any time soon.
As Friedman allowed at the beginning, it’s a longshot. And as of right now, none of the logistics line up to make it feasible within current conditions for the Pens to play their home games outdoors.
However it’s interesting and noteworthy that the team is thinking and trying to do all they can in order to make their operations generate as much revenue as possible in 2021. This idea probably wouldn’t come to fruition, but it was worth the thought.