Lightning in running to host outdoor game
The NHL's iconic Winter Classic is zeroing in on the Sunshine State, and it's possible the Tampa Bay Lightning could host the event in the coming years.
"Tampa is absolutely on the shorter list of places that we're considering (for an outdoor game)," NHL executive vice president Steve Mayer told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. "I think given the stadium, given the team, given the market, I think it's a great candidate."
The sites for the 2020 and 2021 outdoor games will be announced this offseason. The Lightning would play at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Buccaneers, which seats more than 65,000 fans.
The team ranks sixth in NHL attendance this season, averaging more than 19,000 fans a game at Amalie Arena, according to ESPN.
Tampa's hosting the 2018 All-Star Game in February.
A staple on the league calendar since 2008, the NHL schedules multiple outdoor games each year. Two have already taken place this season - in Ottawa and New York City, respectively - and a third is set for Annapolis, Md., in March.
Two previous games were held in warmer climates - Los Angeles in 2014 and Santa Clara, Calif., in 2015 - and potential weather challenges won't deter the NHL.
"The way we're doing the ice (for outdoor games) has changed and evolved over the years. It can handle extremes," Mayer added. "You can never play an afternoon game. But nighttime (in Tampa) it gets cool and could easily handle an outdoor game."
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