It's very easy to argue the market for outdoor games is oversaturated. What was once unique, special, and different has now been muddled by three or four games per year. Differing locales with unique backdrops such as the game at Dodger Stadium are what keep this buzzing but repeating teams have bogged things down.
As it stands this will be the fourth outdoor game for the Penguins. This will be the third for the Flyers. Neither of them are the Blackhawks, who has been in not far from 50% of the games, but repetition is boring.
And now, for the first time, the NHL is repeating a venue. There have been repeat cities (Chicago saw Wrigley Field and Solider Field, Boston saw Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium) but Pittsburgh is not just getting a second game... it's back at Heinz Field. For some reason.
Heinz Field was a special occasion to start the day when the puck was dropped in the Winter Classic. Though marred by rain delays, soaking weather, and that concussion thing, it was still a unique experience that stuck out in the annals of outdoor games.
Heinz Field has also been done.
Just down the road from Heinz Field is one of the most unique, beautiful, and distinctive views in all of sports. PNC Park was sitting, ready, waiting for its chance to join Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium, and Citizen's Bank Park as the baseball stadiums to host an outdoor game. Instead... well... we're robbed of a hockey rink in the middle of this:
There is no buzz at Heinz Field. Despite it being a face off of the state's biggest and nastiest rivalry (sorry Pitt/Penn State) the game is not selling out. Despite it being on a weekend bereft of other major sporting events (it was originally scheduled against the NBA All Star Game on Feb 18th) it's not yet sold out. Instead of being a hot ticket item it's lagged in the desired attention it was hoping to get.
Heinz Field has 68,400 seats. The NHL was probably hoping for around 70,000 people to make their way to the North Shore for this game. In the end, sure, they probably will. In the end this will be looked at as a success. But one month out it has not sold out, second hand tickets can be had for face value, and the seeming desire for this game is lower than that of the Pitt basketball team.
PNC Park would be new. It would be beautiful. More importantly it would have sold out. With only 38,362 seats available the supply would have catered to a demand that isn't there for a venue close to twice the size. By now the game would have been sold out and the buzz would be huge.
Instead we're treated to a watered down event in a watered down venue after the previous game there was, literally, watered down.
Leave it to the NHL to screw up something that could have been so simple. Let's just hope everyone stays healthy this time.