0 out of 8
Paul Sancya/Associated Press
When the temperatures drop and a new year approaches, you know it’s time for another NHL away game.
Although the league held a few outdoor games in the 1950s, both matchups were exhibitions. It wasn’t until 2003 that the NHL hosted a meaningful outdoor game.
Five years later, the NHL schedules another. And since then, outdoor games have become an annual tradition. Heck, it’s to the point that—between the Winter Classic, Stadium Series, Heritage Classic and other events—the volume of games is a running joke.
Nonetheless, we’ve watched a whole lot of enjoyable and competitive outdoor hockey over the past two decades. And as the Winter Classic 2022 approaches, we recall the best of these outdoor games.
1 of 8
The weather didn’t fully cooperate that night in late February 2019, but steady light rain did little to dampen the excitement of this rivalry game.
Sidney Crosby struck first for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who looked set for a win at Lincoln Financial Field—home of the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. In the third period, the Pens took a 3-1 lead on Evgeni Malkin’s lucky rebound off Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott.
But in the final 3:04 minutes of regulation time, the Flyers surged to force overtime. They closed the gap on James van Riemsdyk’s power-play goal, then Jakub Voracek fired a badly angled shot at Pens goaltender Matt Murray and found the net with 20 seconds left.
In the extra session, Flyers star Claude Giroux forced his way through the Pittsburgh defense and slipped the winner past Murray.
2 out of 8
Seven years earlier, however, the Flyers squandered a late lead.
Philly hosted the 2012 Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, which normally features the Philadelphia Phillies of MLB. The home crowd saw the Flyers take a 2-0 lead over the New York Rangers thanks to Brayden Schenn’s first career goal and Giroux’s 18th of the season.
But just 30 seconds after Giroux’s goal, Rangers center Mike Rupp had a shot with assists from Brandon Prust and John Mitchell. Early in the third period, Rupp added a second goal with assists from Prust and Mitchell again.
Less than three minutes into Rupp’s second, Brad Richards slammed a rebound for the Rangers goal.
And the drama was not over!
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped a shot, but Ryan McDonagh covered the puck and gave the Flyers a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds left in regulation time. Lundqvist rose to the challenge, however, and stoned Daniel Brière for a 3-2 victory in New York.
3 out of 8
Do you like to score? I hope so !
In the second Winter Classic, the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks set a still-standing outdoor record of 10 goals. The mark has since been tied twice, but the original NHL track meet took place in a showdown of the original six teams at Wrigley Field.—the iconic home of the Chicago Cubs of MLB.
Chicago took a 3-1 lead in 20 minutes as Martin Havlat quickly had a goal and two assists. The rest of the game, however, belonged to rival Detroit.
In the second period, Jiri Hudler scored twice before Pavel Datsyuk led the Red Wings 4-3. Brian Rafalski and Brett Lebda added third-period goals, giving Detroit a 6-3 advantage that Chicago cut with just 9.2 seconds left.
Henrik Zetterberg had three assists for the Red Wings, which reached the Stanley Cup this season and narrowly missed back-to-back championships.
4 out of 8
That matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers in November 2003 started it all.
For the first time in NHL history, an outdoor venue hosted a regular season game. Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton hosted the Canadians’ thrilling victory.
Neither team scored in the first period, but Montreal needed just 39 seconds in the second period to break the ice. Richard Zednik holds the honor of that very first goal, and Yanic Perreault added a second to help the Canadians take a 2-1 lead.
Montreal and Edmonton alternated goals in the final period. Perreault scored his second of the game, then Jarret Stoll of Edmonton made it 3-2. Zednik tied Perreault with a second goal, then Steve Staios of the Oilers cut the Canadians’ lead to one.
Montreal survived the last five minutes—and a close range chance for Edmonton’s Mike York with 20 seconds left—win 4-3.
5 out of 8
Stay out of the penalty area, kids.
During the 2020 Winter Classic—a showdown that brought together 85,630 fans at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, making it the second-highest-attended game in NHL history—the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars held a power play clinic.
Nashville took advantage of a five-on-three and a five-minute major to secure a two-goal lead in the first period. Matt Duchene and Dante Fabbro each found the back of the net for the Preds, and Roman Josi assisted on both scorers.
Dallas couldn’t beat Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne for nearly 39 minutes. But once he did, the floodgates opened.
Blake Comeau scored late in the second period. Less than a minute into the third, Mattias Janmark deflected a goal on the power play. About four minutes later, Alexander Radulov took advantage of the power play. And within 90 seconds, Andrej Sekera fired home a rebound to complete the Stars’ 4-2 victory.
6 out of 8
To celebrate the 100th NHL season, the Toronto Red Wings and Maple Leafs faced off at BMO Multipurpose Field in Toronto on New Year’s Day 2017.
After a scoreless opening period, Detroit struck relatively early in the second period. Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar set up rookie winger Anthony Mantha, who shot past Toronto star Auston Matthews and goaltender Frederik Andersen.
However, the Leafs stormed out in the third. Four different players scored and propelled Toronto to a 4-1 margin.
But then Detroit staged an incredible comeback. Jonathan Ericsson scored with 6:06 left, and Dylan Larkin rebounded with 1:46 left in regulation. Mantha capped off the three-goal recovery on a rebound with just 1.1 seconds on the clock. Zetterberg notched his second career three-pass away game.
The elation quickly disappeared for Detroit, however. Toronto regrouped in overtime and found the winner on Matthews’ second goal of the game, eliminating the Wings 5-4.
7 out of 8
MLB and NFL venues are great choices for outdoor games. But for the biggest turnout possible, going to a college football stadium is the smartest move.
This is exactly what happened at the Winter Classic 2014.
Better known as the Big House, Michigan Stadium is the home ground of the University of Michigan football team. And on this day in January, more than 100,000 people flooded the streets of Ann Arbor as Wolverines fans do from September through November each fall.
Oh, and the game was awesome too. Unfortunately for Red Wings fans, they fell to the Maple Leafs in that game, as would happen in the Centennial Classic exactly three years later.
Both teams scored in the second and third periods, and overtime was unsuccessful. The game went to a shootout, where Detroit legend Pavel Datsyuk scored, but Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak beat Jimmy Howard to give the Leafs a 2-1 shootout advantage for a memorable 3- 2 at the Big House.
8 out of 8
Sequels are rarely better than the original, right? It seems that this sentiment also applies to outdoor games.
New Year’s Day 2008 brought the first-ever Winter Classic, which has since become an annual tradition. For very understandable reasons, the only seasons where the event didn’t happen were 2013-14 (lockout) and 2020-21 (coronavirus pandemic).
Sidney Crosby stole the show in this game against the Buffalo Sabers at Ralph Wilson Stadium, usually home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. The showdown then set a record with 71,217 fans.
Almost immediately after the puck dropped, Crosby headed for the net and collected his 37th assist of the season. Colby Armstrong beat Buffalo’s Ryan Miller for the 1-0 lead just 21 seconds into the game.
Buffalo tied the game on Brian Campbell’s goal in the second period, and the game went to overtime and a shootout. As the Sabers struck first through Ales Kotalik, Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang quickly responded to set up the heroism of 20-year-old Sid the Kid.
Crosby came in slowly, deked and beat Miller through the five holes to calm the partisan crowd in a 2-1 Penguins victory.