The Chicago Blackhawks will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1 as the National Hockey League increases the number of outdoor games.
The two teams will meet in the 63,000-seat stadium, home of the National Football League’s Chicago Bears, the NHL said today in an e-mailed release. It is the first of additional outdoor games that the NHL plans to announce in the coming weeks as part of its Stadium Series, according to the statement.
“Our fans and our teams love outdoor games,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We are thrilled the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will present a number of these experiences to a large number of our fans in a variety of National Hockey League markets.”
Chicago hosted an outdoor contest in front of 40,818 fans at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1, 2009, one of the NHL’s Winter Classic games. The annual New Year’s Day game has produced five of the six most-watched regular-season games in league history in the U.S. A record 4.5 million viewers watched the 2011 game between the Penguins and the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Michigan Stadium will host the 2014 Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, which could break the record for attendance at a hockey game, according to the NHL. Over 104,000 fans attended a 2010 college contest between Michigan and Michigan State at the stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Blackhawks (36-7-5) finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, while the Penguins (36-12-0) finished atop the Eastern Conference. The teams are the favorites to meet in the Stanley Cup final, according to the online sportsbook Bovada.lv.
The NHL wasn’t specific about how many more outdoors game it would announce as part of the Stadium Series. TSN in Canada reported two weeks ago that the league was preparing to hold six outdoor games next season.