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Stadium Series: The outdoor hockey success continues for NHL

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

The first two rounds of the Stadium Series were hits. (Getty Images)
The first two rounds of the Stadium Series were hits. (Getty Images)

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Question whether the league is overplaying its outdoor hand, there is no denying that after a weekend that saw the NHL go outdoors not once but twice in a span of less than 24 hours and 3,000 miles apart that the NHL scored a bigger win than the Rangers did Sunday.

After seeing the Winter Classic this year in Michigan with more than 100,000 fans in attendance, the snow flying from start to finish and two Original Six teams doing battle, it seemed almost pointless to repeat the outdoor feat for the NHL.

No way could the watered-down games compare to the New Year's Day staple, especially if we were going to get watered-down ice by going to a locale such as Los Angeles.

Then the NHL actually hosted games at Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium and they went off about as well as the NHL could have hoped. There was a slight delay Sunday with the start of the Rangers and Devils game getting the old sun glare delay, but beyond that it was nothing but a success for the league.

"The first two games of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series -- played on two coasts, under two wild extremes of climate -- provided all the best elements our sport can offer our fans," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said after Sunday's game.

"Within 16 hours, two of the most-revered venues in sports welcomed more than 100,000 fans to sit under the sky and enjoy two of the fiercest rivalries in the National Hockey League. The games were spectacular, the images were unforgettable and the sheer energy our sport creates was unmistakable. This truly was a remarkable weekend for our fans and our League."

It's hard to disagree with Bettman's overall assessment.

In the span of two days the NHL just drew more than 100,000 fans in attendance for just two games, two games that actually produced some not bad hockey. A ringing endorsement it's not but when you go outdoors, that's the standard you hope for. The pucks hopped a bit and the ice was a little slower, particularly in LA, but the elements didn't take away the elements of the success of the winning teams. The Rangers, for example, were able to use their speed to produce seven goals. Their passing ability wasn't hindered. Aside from the extraordinary circumstances, it was business as usual.

But it was still not business as normal, and that's the whole point. Well that and putting more money in the NHL's wallet. Seeing the attendance numbers for the first two games, it's hard to believe the NHL didn't succeed on that front either.

It certainly was more memorable hockey than any other game you'll get in late January of any season. Gripe all you want about these games with different conditions being worth the same as any indoor game (and you'd have legit beef) but fact is they did count the same and the NHL turned them into events that still yielded entertaining hockey.

We'll have to wait to call the NHL's Stadium Series experiment a tremendous success as there are still three games left -- Wednesday night back at Yankee Stadium with the Rangers and Isles, in Chicago for Blackhawks-Penguins and then Vancouver for Senators-Canucks -- but this weekend, these two games, were undoubtedly home runs, to steal some jargon from the recent settings, for the NHL.

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