Many National League Hockey players and coaches grew up skating on frozen ponds. Their memories of those formative days bond them in a unique way. On Feb. 15, 2020, members of the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings will relive those glorious experiences at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium when they play the 11th game in the NHL Stadium Series.
Since the NHL’s first outdoor game in 2003, the hockey league has evolved three annual outdoor series: the Stadium Series, the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, and the Heritage Classic held in Canada.
“Any time you get to change it up and play in an outdoor game in front of 45,000 fans here [in Colorado Springs], it’s a special moment for all the players,” says Avalanche general manager and Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Sakic. “It’s going to be great for the fans in Denver and Colorado Springs to get a chance to come in historic Falcon Stadium and witness a great game.”
Falcon Stadium, with its mountain backdrop and location on a U.S. service academy, received rave reviews from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman when he was in town for an October press conference announcing the game.
This is the second time the Avalanche will play a Stadium Series game. In 2016, they hosted—and lost to—the Detroit Red Wings in front of 50,095 at Coors Field. This year’s Avs are led by 2019 All-Stars Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog.
The Kings have played two previous Stadium Series games, including the first-ever Stadium Series tilt on Jan. 25, 2014, when they hosted the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium. The current Kings feature All-Star defenseman Drew Doughty, captain Anze Kopitar and goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The game at Falcon Stadium will mark the second time the NHL has brought the NHL Stadium Series to a U.S. military academy. In 2018, the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs played at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Stadium Series games have been a marketing boon for the NHL, offering both a change of pace from the indoor venues and a celebration of the sport’s history. Along with Falcon Stadium’s proximity to the Avs’ home ice, Colorado Springs’ deep hockey roots make it a natural host site. USA Hockey is headquartered here. The NCAA Division I Ice Hockey Championship started here in 1948 and was held at the Broadmoor Ice Palace from 1948-58, and again in 1969, for a record 11 times in one venue. Colorado College won titles there in 1950 and 1957 (and lost in the finals in 1952 and 1955).
Although they have never faced off in the finals, Colorado College and Air Force are scheduled to play twice surrounding the weekend of the NHL Stadium Series, with the Feb. 17 game to be held at the Air Force Academy.
So will the Falcons and Tigers get to tussle on the outdoor ice at Falcon Stadium? Neither team would comment. Although it seems likely, NHL policies typically require ticket sale thresholds before other games can follow.
Regardless, five-time Olympic gold medal-winning speed skater Bonnie Blair plans to be at the Air Force-Colorado College game. Her son, Grant Cruikshank, is a sophomore forward for the Tigers.
“I’m definitely going to be back in town for that game,” says Blair, who resides in Michigan. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
Find details about the 2020 NHL Stadium Series at nhl.com.
Freezing Falcon Stadium—By the Numbers
The process will start about three weeks before the game when semitrucks carrying the portable ice rink arrive.
The average low temperature at the Air Force Academy on Feb. 15.
The average high temperature at the Academy on Feb. 15.
Number of ice pans under the main rink at Coors Field for the Feb. 27, 2016, game hosted by the Avalanche.
Gallons of coolant used to freeze the Coors Field rink.
Gallons of water needed to create a 2-inch ice surface (some of which was transported from the Coors Brewery in Golden to make the ice at Coors Field in 2016).