When the NHL recently announced a four-team field for two outdoor Lake Tahoe games, some eyebrows were raised in Northern California because the Sharks weren’t included among the quartet.
San Jose is the closest NHL team to Edgewood Tahoe Resort, the same venue that hosts a popular annual celebrity golf championship. In fact, the rink will be placed on the 18th fairway of the golf course. But the league on Monday announced the Vegas Knights will play the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 20, before the Boston Bruins will play the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 21.
Commissioner Gary Bettman offered insight Monday on the NHL’s thinking behind the decision, via Curtis Pashelka of the Bay Area News Group.
“I’m sure the Sharks would have wanted to participate and frankly, if we were dealing with a game where there was live attendance and we were looking to fill a large stadium as we did with the Sharks and Levi’s Stadium [in 2015], they certainly would have been considered and maybe as well picked,” Bettman said. “But for the circumstances that we were addressing, we think we’ve got four terrific teams giving us two great matchups.”
Clearly, the NHL is thinking nationally when it comes to this event. The league already had to postpone its Winter Classic scheduled for Jan. 1 between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues in Minnesota, while the Carolina Hurricanes also canceled an outdoor game originally slated for Feb. 20.
Sharks fans obviously want to see their squad skating against the postcard-like background of Lake Tahoe, but the league is concerned about revenue and, thus, TV viewership. San Jose is projected to finish near the bottom of the tough West Division. Meanwhile, Vegas and Colorado are the two odds-on favorites in the West, and Boston and Philadelphia are the top two betting favorites in the East, according to our partner PointsBet.
It’s hard to imagine the Detroit Red Wings being left out of some games on the Great Lakes or a New York-based squad not invited to an event at Lake Placid, but the Sharks don’t have the same gravitas as those other franchises yet.
Bob Boughner's in his first full season as head coach, and goalie tandem of Martin Jones and Devan Dubnyk has a lot to prove entering 2021. If the Sharks were expected to be competitive this season it would be another issue, but the NHL’s reasoning makes sense in the current situation.
More than 70,000 fans were in attendance during the Sharks' 2015 matchup at Levi's Stadium against the Los Angeles Kings, but attracting a national TV audience is a whole different ballgame ... er, hockey game.