The NHL forayed into unknown territory last weekend when it hosted a pair of games at Lake Tahoe, constructing an ice rink on the 18th fairway of a golf course on the Nevada side of the picturesque lake and its surrounding mountains.
It was the first time the NHL had ever hosted a game outside the familiar confines of a stadium or arena. Despite issues with the sun melting the ice during the Colorado-Vegas game on Saturday and causing an hours-long delay, the setting alone was breathtaking.
The lack of fans during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic created the circumstances for the NHL to take a risk it likely wouldn't have otherwise. But hosting an event with nature as the backdrop gave Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette has an idea for the NHL to lean more into the outdoor theme: pond hockey.
Laviolette’s family owns a house on Lake Waukewan in New Hampshire. Every year, a series of youth tournaments is organized at nearby Lake Winnipesaukee, where a rare form of organized pond hockey is played in front of large thralls of spectators.
“It’s huge,” Laviolette said Monday on 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies. “They build so many rinks and they have hundreds and hundreds of teams come in for a weekend and they play in these tournaments. It’s a big business and then one season their lake didn’t freeze…so they brought it over to our lake and they built all the rinks right into the lake.
“Pond hockey, the way you did when you were a kid, it’s pretty cool. Will they ever get the NHL there? I don’t know but man that would be awesome if they were able to do that.”
The Capitals’ coach managed to catch some of the Lake Tahoe games on TV and was impressed by how the NHL managed to set the scene.
“Every time I had it on, or the pictures I’ve seen, I couldn’t help but think the scenery was so beautiful,” Laviolette said. “I think it was because obviously there was no building around it, really in the true sense of an outdoor game where you really feel like it’s just you and the ice and the mountains and the cold air.”
The NHL did run into that sunshine problem that forced the Knights-Avalanche game to be delayed for almost eight hours after it started on Saturday at noon Pacific time and then the Bruins-Flyers game on Sunday to start late in the afternoon as the sun was setting.
But the tournaments at Lake Winnipesaukee show a pond hockey NHL game might be possible. If one lake is already hosting over 500 games of hockey across 26 rinks in a single weekend every year, Laviolette might be onto something suggesting that the NHL could host a game of its own. There's plenty of nature to go around.