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Miami Herald
Miami Herald
David Wilson

Will Florida ever host an outdoor NHL game? It’s ‘something we’re exploring,’ commish says.

SUNRISE, Fla. — The 2023 NHL All-Star Game was the biggest event yet for the Florida Panthers under Vincent Viola’s ownership, which leaves one logical next step: an outdoor game

But could the Panthers really bring the NHL Winter Classic or NHL Stadium Series to South Florida? Preliminary discussions have taken place, although Gary Bettman said nothing is imminent.

“It’s something that we are taking a look at,” the commissioner said. “If we think we can with great likelihood accomplish it, we might try it, but we’re not there yet.”

While an outdoor game in Miami-Dade County or Broward County would certainly be the furthest south for an outdoor NHL game, Stadium Series games in warmer climes are not unprecedented.

The Los Angeles Kings hosted the first ever Stadium game at Dodger Stadium back in 2014 and the series will get closer to FLA Live Arena than ever Feb. 18 when the Carolina Hurricanes host the Washington Capitals at Carter-Finley Stadium.

CEO Matt Caldwell was glad to hear the possibility of an outdoor game brought out and a source told the Miami Herald exploratory talks have taken place between the Panthers and Miami Marlins about the possibility of playing a game at some point at loanDepot park, with its retractable roof potentially providing some flexibility.

Any outdoor game would likely have to cross county lines, with loanDepot and Miami Gardens’ Hard Rock Stadium as the only outdoor venues in the region with a capacity greater than 20,000.

The weather, unsurprisingly, is one of the biggest hold ups in bringing an outdoor game to Florida, Bettman said.

“Obviously, the weather is a potential issue. Today may be a good example,” Bettman said on a windy, rainy day. “If we had an outdoor game to play today, it could be a problem, but it is something we’re exploring. We’ve tried a variety of new and interesting things.”

Still, the 2023 All-Star Game is shaping up to be a major success for both the league and the Panthers. Players have raved about their time in South Florida and Bettman said he believes the game has set a record by bringing roughly 7,000 guests from out of town to watch the game.

The estimated economic impact of the All-Star Game on Broward, he said, is between $25-30 million, as events have taken place in Sunrise, Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale.

It was the Panthers’ biggest undertaking yet and the success will give the organization confidence about taking the logical next step to an outdoor game, and Caldwell believes it’s feasible, even with the weather.

“Antyhing’s possible,” he said. “Especially now with the rivalry that we’ve built with Tampa, I think two Florida teams just figuring this out would be wonderful. I know the league’s trying. ... I think it’s definitely possible.”

Updating War Memorial, naming rights

The FLA Live era for the Panthers’ arena could soon be coming to an end.

After serving as a placeholder name for the arena for more than a year following BB&T’s merger with SunTrust to become Truist, FLA Live could come off the building by the start of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, with a new naming-rights sponsor nearly in place.

“Were down to a few final candidates, so nothing official,” Caldwell said. “We would’ve loved to announce it before the All-Star Game, but we figured, Let’s make sure we get the right one. I anticipate us having someone either buy the playoffs or definitely next season.”

The franchise is working with Endeavor to find a partner.

Florida also expects the hockey components of the revitalized War Memorial Auditorium will be open in time for the start of the 2023-24 NHL season. The Fort Lauderdale venue will serve as the Panthers’ new practice facility and another venue for youth hockey.

Florida was initially hoping the War Memorial would be ready for the start of the 2022-23 NHL season and then pushed back a target date to All-Star weekend, but supply-chain delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Caldwell said, ultimately delayed the project.

The Auditorium will also have a concert venue, although it won’t open until a later date, hopefully by the end of 2023.

“We’re targeting this summer or fall,” Caldwell said. “We’re trying to get the hockey team in there before next season.”


Sports reporter Jordan McPherson contributed reporting.

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