Kevin Weekes is such a big fan of the NHL outdoor games that the former goalie turned NHL Network and ESPN analyst would like to see more of them, in North America and abroad.
“I always get excited by these because they’re spectacles and I think the more spectacles that you can have the better for our league,” Weekes said on the NHL @TheRink podcast recorded Tuesday. “It amplifies the game, the markets, the fans, the coverage. It certainly is able to put them on the right stage and put our players on stages where the globe is watching, everybody around the world.”
Weekes said he’s particularly interested in the upcoming 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; TNT, SN1, TVAS, NHL LIVE) because of the venue and the teams in it.
The Wild (19-9-2) lead the Central Division with 40 points, one point ahead of the Blues (17-9-5), who are tied for second with the Nashville Predators.
“The fact that it’s two Central Division rivals that are tightly knit, I think it’ll be great,” Weekes said.
Weekes said he’s hearing from friends of his in Germany, Switzerland and Russia who are eager to tune in and watch the game to see the Winter Classic spectacle and watch players like Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko and Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov.
“You’re getting texts from these guys, these people around the world that play, that coach, that are in the game, they’re excited,” Weekes said. “That means it’s yes, Minnesota, yes, St. Louis, but it really is the global impact, the fact the game is on such a big stage and so are our players. I would love to see more of that.”
Weekes said he has spoken to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and other executives about expanding the outdoor game experience into European markets, using some of the famous venues built for legendary soccer teams.
“Stadium Series Europe,” Weekes said. “You’re going to have this at Target Field, Minny, land of 10,000 lakes, amazing hockey market, super vibrant, but why can’t you have that at the stadium where Bayern Munich plays in Germany? Why can’t you have it at Old Trafford where Manchester United play or Etihad Stadium where Manchester City plays? Hey, I’m getting on the plane from Newark or JFK or LaGuardia to go. And imagine your fans in Switzerland, Russia, Germany and the rest of the world getting the opportunity to see that type of crowned jewel across the pond as well. There is a huge growth opportunity there.”
“I would love to see more of these games simply because you’re able to have more fans get a unique experience and the players are able to get a unique experience.”
Weekes also discussed with co-hosts Dan Rosen and Shawn P. Roarke the sustainability of the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers, and why he admires former Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice so much.
In addition, Rosen and Roarke talked about storylines to watch with the NHL coming out of its extended six-day holiday break, including center Brayden Point‘s immediate return to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup, center Evgeni Malkin‘s pending return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup and the viability of the Vancouver Canucks as a Stanley Cup Playoff contender.
The NHL @TheRink podcast is free and listeners can subscribe on all podcast platforms. It is also available on NHL.com/multimedia/podcasts and the NHL app.