Outdoor NHL hockey will make its debut in New Jersey next year when the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford will host four double-header teams in what is called the league’s Stadium Series.
The Devils will play the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, February 17, and the Islanders will take on the Rangers on the same ice the following day, the NHL announced on Saturday.
The league said it expects more than 75,000 spectators per game, and to continue its streak of 37 consecutive sales for regular season outdoor games, which began in their modern form in 2003.
“This is a huge NFL stadium, and our goal is to bring it to life in a way that, frankly, we haven’t seen many of,” said Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content officer. “We’re going to get really creative and highlight those areas.”
Mayer and Dean Matsuzaki, the league’s executive vice president for events, said they had been hoping to stage outdoor games at MetLife Stadium for a long time. But they say the logistics there are more complicated than at many other stadiums because it is the home of two NFL teams, the Giants and Jets, and there is less time to access the facilities for preparation. But they note that the size of the venue allows for four teams, with scheduled practice time and recreational ice time with their families, for all four teams.
Teams will be scheduled to take the following Monday off if bad weather over the weekend forces one or both games to be postponed. The exact seating capacity will depend on the construction of the lower seating area which is scheduled in preparation for the 2026 FIFA men’s World Cup.
In 2014, the Rangers played the Devils and the Islanders three days apart at Yankee Stadium. Each match attracts around 50,000 fans. The NHL’s largest regular season outdoor game was held at Michigan Stadium in 2014 when an announced crowd of 105,491 watched the Detroit Red Wings play the Toronto Maple Leafs. The last outdoor game held in the New York area was the Winter Classic on frigid New Year’s Day in 2018 between the Rangers and Buffalo Sabers at Citi Field, when 41,000 fans sat in temperatures that started at 7 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning and peaked in 25.
Mayer said organizers hope to support next year’s event with additional entertainment, youth hockey games and live music. Asked if they would be looking for New Jersey natives, like Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, to appear, Mayer asked a reporter if he had Springsteen’s phone number, adding with a laugh, “We’d love to talk to him soon.”