The 2021 Winter Classic may have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but outdoor hockey remains alive and well.
But this year’s iteration of an NHL-hosted outdoor game will be unlike any of the 30 other tilts. For the first time, hockey will be played atop a golf course. Yes, the days of baseball, football or soccer stadiums are on hold as the fastest game on earth heads to the grass — the fairway of a par-5, to be exact.
While one significant difference this year is that there won’t be fans in attendance, another is that this year’s locale will be the site of two tilts. Saturday’s showcase will feature the West Division’s Golden Knights and Avalanche. On Sunday, the East Division’s Flyers and Bruins will face off.
Here’s everything you need to know to get you ready for the 2021 NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe puck drop.
Where is the 2021 NHL Outdoors being played?
Hello, Nevada! The Silver State will become the 13th U.S. state (plus the District of Columbia) to host an outdoor NHL game.
Situated on the 18th hole of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort on the southern shore of Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nev., the rink is set in front of one of the most beautiful backdrops in the history of the sport: Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Watch both games of 2021 NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe live with fuboTV (7-day free trial)
At 6,224 feet above sea level, the venue is the second-highest locale for an outdoor game. The Avalanche and Kings faced off at an elevation of 6,621 feet in last year’s Stadium Series at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Colorado, by the way, also played in the third-highest elevation game when the club hosted the Red Wings at 5,200 feet above sea level at Coors Field in Denver in 2016.
Who is playing in the 2021 NHL Outdoors?
The Battle Born State will serve as the host site for two fierce rivalries: the Avalanche and Golden Knights squaring off on Saturday followed by the Flyers and Bruins going toe-to-toe on Sunday.
And while the teams will play in a picturesque setting, there will still be four big points up for grabs. The Bruins entered the weekend atop the East Division, with the Flyers just three points back. (The Islanders and Capitals, who are tied with the Flyers, will play Saturday.) Vegas will hit the ice just one point back of West leader St. Louis, with the third-place Avalanche four points behind the Golden Knights.
The Avalanche will also be debuting their reverse retro jerseys, which pay homage to the franchise’s roots as the Quebec Nordiques.
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Several marquee players will be missing for the Broad Street Bullies: Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, Justin Braun and captain Claude Giroux are all on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
Nathan MacKinnon will be doing what?
With the game on a golf course, the first intermission of Saturday’s game will showcase, well, golf. Avalanche captain Nathan MacKinnon will head over to the adjacent par-3 17th hole and take a swing.
Why? Well, back in 2011 Joe Sakic, the Hockey Hall of Famer and now Avalanche GM, nailed a hole-in-one in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at the very same spot. Using an 8-iron, Sakic’s lefty tee shot needed just two short bounces before dropping in.
If MacKinnon makes an ace, then the NHL will donate $1 million to the NHL/NHLPA Learn to Play program. The only thing he won’t be able to recreate, if he matches his GM’s feat, will be what looked like Sakic high-fiving every fan in attendance.
Will there be fans?
Over the previous 30 outdoor contests, more than 1.6 million fans braved (mostly) cold stadiums to attend a once-in-a-lifetime game. The 2020 Winter Classic had the second-largest crowd in NHL history, with 85,630 fans watching the host Stars beat the Predators 4-2 at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still going, these will be the first outdoor games without fans in attendance.
What TV channel are the 2021 NHL Outdoor games?
The 2021 NHL Outdoor games will be broadcast on NBC. Mike Tirico will provide the play-by-play while Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will serve as analysts.
Golden Knights vs. Avalanche
Saturday’s game marks the outdoor debut of the Golden Knights and the third trip outside for the Avalanche (0-2-0).
Saturday’s pregame ceremonies will include frontline workers: Aurora C. Gooch will sing the national anthem and U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jared Elliott will deliver the game puck to nurse Daryl Braga, nursing facility worker Miranda Miller and firefighter/paramedic Dusty R. Gooch (Aurora’s father), who will then present the puck to game officials.
Flyers vs. Bruins
This will be the Flyers’ fifth outdoor game (1-2-1) and the Bruins’ fourth (2-1-0). These teams met at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day 2010, with the host Bruins winning 2-1.
Pregame festivities Sunday include Pentatonix singing the U.S. national anthem and three-time Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter and two-time Olympic skier Maddie Bowman delivering the game puck.
Who will perform Saturday?
Green Day will continue its collaboration with the NHL as it debuts its newest song, “Here Comes the Shock,” during the second intermission of Golden Knights-Avs.
At the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis, Green Day performed “Fire, Ready, Aim” before the festivities got underway. The band also rocked Enterprise Center during the second intermission.
The NHL is surely hoping this year’s performance will be, um, cleaner.
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