The National Mall is ready to host a hockey game…sort of.
After rumors have swirled in the past about potential attempts to play hockey outdoors in the shadow of the Washington Monument, the NHL is finally open to having games played in places like The Mall or Central Park. Just not in the way you would think.
According to a report from ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, the league is planning on using the puck tracking technology that featured in last season’s popular Big City Greens Classic between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers to expand possible viewing feeds of games.
The “alternate feeds” would feature virtual players, real-time puck tracking, and the ability to showcase games “anywhere.”
NEWS: We may finally get NHL outdoor games in Central Park and The Mall in DC … using tech from last season’s Big City Greens broadcast.
NHL tells ESPN it plans to create alternate feeds in which games take place "anywhere." Virtual players, real-time action via puck tracking. pic.twitter.com/fkbGNqUW3K
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) September 11, 2023
“We could create a game that the Capitals are playing locally that has a second screen that looks like you’re playing on The Mall, or it looks like you’re playing right outside the White House,” NHL Chief Business Officer and Senior Executive VP Keith Wachtel told Wyshynski. “We can do it in Central Park for New York. We could do it anywhere, and it’s pretty amazing technology. So you’re going to start to see a lot more of that, which we think is great for the game, and certainly great for a new demographic that we think is important.”
The NHL Big City Greens Classic took place last year on March 14 and was a partnership between the league, ESPN, and Disney to put on a “first-of-its-kind live volumetric animation” of an NHL game telecast.
The game between the Caps and Rangers saw cartoon characters from Disney’s Big City Greens skating the same paths and shooting the same shots as the real players in the game via tracking technology located in both the pucks and player jerseys.
Here’s how that looked when the Rangers opened the scoring against the Caps.
The #NHL Big City Greens Classic now on DisneyChannel, Disney+, DisneyXD and ESPN+ is definitely worth checking out. Super innovative.
— bill hofheimer (@bhofheimer_espn) March 14, 2023
Before the Capitals were eventually granted the NHL’s Winter Classic game in DC that took place at Nationals Park, other venues for the game were being explored or at least pondered about for the New Year’s Day matchup. The Mall has long been suggested as a venue.
However, Caps team owner Ted Leonsis kiboshed any of those talks back in 2010 on a now inaccessible Ted’s Take blog post, citing logistical problems such as the lack of common areas to build seats and full team locker rooms. The game would not be as profitable as filling up a larger baseball or football stadium.
The Caps have filled up The Mall to capacity before though. Back in 2018 the team held their championship parade along Constitution Avenue leading up to The Mall with nearly a million Capitals and DC Sports fans in tow.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 12, 2018
While these NHL games wouldn’t literally be played at these picturesque venues, the league has been exploring more scenic spots for its outdoor games for yearas. The prime example being the two Lake Tahoe games that were put on during the 2020-21 season.
Those two NHL Outdoor Games took in front of no spectators and were scheduled as a replacement for the canceled 2021 Winter Classic and Stadium Series games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rink was placed on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. The views were immaculate.
If “anywhere” is truly an accurate statement from the league, the possibilities for where games could be projected onto are nearly endless. We could see an NHL game on Hoth as the players dodge tauntauns and wampas on their way to the front of the net.
Where would you want to see a game?
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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