No fans, no problem

Last night during the Battle of Alberta, photos were shown of the NHL game played at Lake Tahoe (until ice problems popped up). After showing the photos, the on-air team discussed the possibility of having the Battle of Alberta held at Lake Louise.

That was our idea

Back in December, after the bars had closed and indoor gatherings were banned, a bunch of us had an indoor gathering, and one of the things we discussed was the (yet to begin) new NHL schedule. One of the things that upset us was that this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime season without any fans in the stands was being squandered by the league.

After all, no fans are permitted at any of the games this year. But if that's really the case, why do the games all need to be played in NHL arenas at all? The reason in a normal year you can't do an outdoor game at Lake Louise and Lake Tahoe is because you can't bring in fans, and therefore the NHL loses live ticket revenue. But without any live tickets being sold, what difference does it make? Why not use this opportunity to do something really different with the 2021 season?

Obviously it's too late for Canadian teams or the league to think of it now, but we started brainstorming a few of the possibilities. Our original thought was purely for the visuals: we could showcase our teams playing in beautiful and/or iconic locations.
  • Oilers vs. Flames home-and-home: Lake Louise one night, Maligne Lake the next
  • Winnipeg vs. Vancouver home-and-home: Lake Winnipeg at Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park, followed by either Alta Lake or an artificial ice surface in Whistler Village (depending on the weather, I hear Alta Lake doesn't always freeze)
  • Ottawa vs. Montreal home-and-home: An manmade rink on the lawn in front of Parliament Hill, followed by a game on Lac Tremblant just below the famous ski resort
We eventually remembered that this season there's no requirement for games to be played in "home" cities at all! Just like during the bubble, there's no reason a Montreal "home" game has to be played anywhere near Montreal, or even Queerbec. If the Canucks play more games outside of BC than inside BC there's no reason it can't be their "home" game. Again, the only advantage of home is the line changes and shorter changes, there aren't any home team fans to worry about. And with that off the board, we expanded our ideas for outdoor games:
  • Calgary vs Winnipeg in Rouleau Saskatchewan, the infamous Dog River of "Corner Gas"
  • Edmonton vs. Vancouver on the marge at Lake Laberge in the Yukon, recreating the famous "Cremation of Sam McGee" poem.
  • Montreal vs Toronto Maple Leafs played up in cottage country, perhaps up in Bobcageon (again the option for an on-the-lake or artificial rink, I know a lot of those lakes don't always freeze)
  • Calgary vs. Montreal in Lunenburg Nova Scotia
  • Ottawa vs. Winnipeg on the gorgeous Lake of the Woods in Kenora Ontario
  • Winnipeg vs. Toronto on Lake Nipigon just north of Thunder Bay
  • Montreal vs. Edmonton in St. John's Newfoundland, or perhaps Gander
  • Calgary vs. Vancouver on the Plains of Abraham just to screw with the frogs
And if you really want to go crazy, we don't need the unique location games to all be played outdoors either. I understand it would take some extra effort to wire locations for 1080p and/or 4k broadcasts, but as long as any hockey area has either and NHL or Olympic sized skating surface, the NHL could play games on it. And that opens up the entire country for these games. Again, any team could be the home game in these scenarios.

Why not a Kraft Hockeyville winners series, where the teams who had their community arenas renovated get NHL games? (North Bay, Roberval, Terrace, Dundas, Conception Bay, Stirling-Rawdon, Sylvan Lake, North Saanich, Chatham, Lumby, Lucan, Renous and Twillingate). Or they could tour WHL, OHL, and QMJHL arenas. The ultimate point is that there was no need to stick to the big NHL arenas, and that this is basically the only change the NHL would ever get to do it.

And they blew it. We called it back in December, and the CBC was a mere two months behind me (which admittedly is an improvement). A real chance to show off all the places that games could be played, from the most photogenic locations in Canada (is the skating rink at Nathan's Phillips Square an NHL-sized surface?) to the various communities across Canada.

What a shame