The NHL has been gradually increasing their support of the US Military institutions in the last few years, quietly ramping up their public support of military veterans and partnering with the military academies for outdoor games.
First, the NHL announced that the Washington Capitals would host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Naval Academy in March of 2018, serving as what Military Times described as “a first-of-its-kind event for any service academy, but likely not the last”.
Now, they’ve announced the second roll-out of the stadium series partnerships, this time giving Mile High fans a chance to bust out the stars and stripes to head to Colorado’s own military institution of higher learning for an outdoor game.
It was confirmed on Friday afternoon that the Avalanche will host the Los Angeles Kings at their 2020 Stadium Series game, bringing the southern California club to the Air Force Academy just north of Colorado Springs:
At the time of the Capitals game announcement, the NHL made it clear that this game was in the works.
“We’ve made no secret of how interested we are in playing games at both the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs,” NHL executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer said in a statement to Military Times. “We’ve had productive discussions with both and are focused on reaching formal agreements in the near future.”
The Air Force Academy remains one of the most prestigious institutions in the United States, boasting just a 12.3% acceptance rate and boasting a history dating back to the opening of its doors in 1954.
The game is a huge benefit to the academy, who will get a chance to show off Falcon Stadium. The choice of an opponent is a bit surprising — the Kings are struggling to pull themselves along in the basement this year, and they aren’t a divisional rival or a cross-conference draw to get fans to come — but for Colorado hockey, it’s a fantastic step. This will be the second time the Avalanche have been given a chance to host, following the 2016 Stadium Series game against Detroit at Coor’s Field. That game drew just over 50,000 fans, so the hope is that this one can do something similar.
The Kings, on the other hand, have played in three outdoor games already in their history. They faced the New York Rangers in an exhibition game in 1991 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, then hosted the Ducks on this date in 2014 at Dodger Stadium in a game that drew just over 54,000 fans and were hosted by the Sharks for the 2017 Winter Classic in a game at Levi’s Stadium that drew 70,200.