Every hockey fan loves when the NHL takes things outdoors. The New York Islanders last played an outdoor game in 2014, a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium.
But since then, the New York Islanders have not been given an opportunity to hit the great outdoors as the NHL knows where the money lies and what teams and matchups garner the most viewership, like Original Six franchises or league powerhouses.
Despite a weak 2021-22 season, someone sees value in having the New York Islanders on national television, as they will play eight games on the ESPN family of networks (ESPN, ESPN+, Hulu) and three games on TNT.
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But what about the potential for more outdoor games soon?
Here are three potential locations and opponents for the New York Islanders if the NHL decides to include Long Island in an outdoor game in the coming years.
New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning, Raymond James Stadium
Rivalries no doubt make outdoor games so much better. The New York Islanders-Tampa Bay Lightning rivalry over the recent years has become rather intense and doesn’t seem like it will be ending anytime soon, either.
Yes, the New York Islanders’ biggest rival in the NHL is the New York Rangers, and it will always stay that way. However, over the last couple of season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have become enemy no. 1. That’s thanks to the Lightning sending the Islanders home on two occasions, in back-to-back semi-finals (2020, 2021).
Now, let’s bring this fierce rivalry to the great outdoors and Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
According to Raymond James Stadium officials, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer holds 65,000 seats but can expand to 75,000 for special events.
From a planning standpoint, it may be a bit harder to bring hockey outdoors in Florida, given the weather, as we have seen in years past.
We saw the NHL deal with above-average temperatures outside at Lake Tahoe in Feb. 2021, as the league struggled with an 8-hour delay during the first matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche due to the ice melting with the warm conditions.
Bettman seems well aware of the temperature outside and how that plays a role in these outdoor matchups. Also, the sun plays a tricky part, given the glare.
While it is more likely that the Florida Panthers would be the top candidate to face their cross-state rivals, the postseason rivalry makes the Islanders an interesting, unique opponent.
New York Islanders vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, West Point
The NHL has already hit up the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy, as both past venues were a massive success. West Point, New York, could be an excellent backdrop for an outdoor game, the location of the United States Military Academy.
96-year-old Michie Stadium has a seating capacity of 38,000 and is home to the Army football program. The 26-year-old stadium is currently receiving some major facelifts, a $100 million facelift to be exact.
The renovations are expected to be completed by the 2024 Army football season. They will include “new premium spaces, including suites, club seats, loge boxes, and ledge seating,” according to the Sports Business Journal.
The Army… West Point…the Columbus Blue Jackets cannon?
An NHL team since 1997, the Columbus Blue Jackets have yet to be featured in an outdoor matchup.
With the long-term acquisition of Johnny Gaudreau, the extension of Patrik Laine, and the development of prospects, the Columbus Blue Jackets are an organization trending in the right direction, with a fantastic fan base.
Imagine Patrik Laine and Mat Barzal in Army-inspired jerseys. That would be pretty epic.
If Columbus scores, Army service members get the opportunity to light the Columbus cannon. Post-2024, Michie Stadium seems like a no-brainer for the NHL.
New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs, BMO Stadium
Need we say anything more?
A rivalry was born when former New York Islanders captain John Tavares elected to sign with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs following the 2017-18 NHL season. And it’s a rivalry that will not disappear until Tavares hangs up the skates.
It’s been five years since the NHL has brought an outdoor game to Toronto. BMO Stadium, the home of Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts, currently holds 30,000 people, but with the 2026 World Cup scheduled to come to town, BMO Stadium recently announced plans to expand seating to 45,736.
BMO Stadium is right near the NHL Toronto Offices, and with Toronto being one of the biggest hockey markets around, from a revenue standpoint, the league could highly profit from a local outdoor game.
If you doubt that New York Islanders fans would make the trip across the border, you have not been paying attention.