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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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NHL Sets Attendance Records With MetLife Stadium Series Games

  • The Rangers-Islanders contest at MetLife Stadium drew the third-largest crowd in league history.
  • There is no evidence of waning enthusiasm for the league’s run of non-arena games.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sixteen years into the NHL’s run of outdoor games, the league is still breaking new ground. 

The NHL drew a crowd of 70,328 on Saturday for Devils-Flyers, the first of a two-day run of Stadium Series games at MetLife Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Giants and Jets. The attendance was the largest in 13 Stadium Series games dating to ’14. The record, however, would only stand for about 18 hours as Sunday’s Rangers-Islanders game then drew 79,690, the third-largest crowd in NHL history, as the league reopened a chunk of lower-bowl seats that was blocked off on Saturday for a pregame Jonas Brothers concert. 

Only two prior Winter Classics—the 2014 game at Michigan Stadium and the ’20 event at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas—have featured bigger crowds for the NHL.

The weekend success at the gate now sets the stage for another historic attendance total next year as the league also unveiled plans for the 2025 Stadium Series game, which will feature the Red Wings playing the Blue Jackets at Ohio Stadium. Representing a hockey version of arguably college football’s top rivalry, the matchup is set to become just the second NHL game to top 100,000 in attendance, joining that ’14 Winter Classic at the Big House. Next year’s Stadium Series contest will join the ’25 Winter Classic, which will return to Wrigley Field in Chicago for Blackhawks-Blues.

The NHL started its outdoor play in 2008 with the first Winter Classic in Buffalo, and the event has since mushroomed into that New Year’s Day tradition, plus the supplemental Stadium Series and the Heritage Classic in Canada. Overall, the league has played 41 outdoor games, drawing a total of 2.1 million, and there are no signs of waning enthusiasm for the concept. 

Fans actively tailgated before both Stadium Series games at MetLife Stadium, and three of the four participating teams arrived at the facility in various themes to help herald the occasion: the Devils in Sopranos-style tracksuits and gold chains, the Flyers in Rocky-inspired gray sweatsuits, and the Rangers in New York fire and police department hockey jerseys, along with actual uniformed officers and firefighters.

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