STATELINE, Nev. — National Hockey League officials wanted a picturesque landscape where they could build an ice rink surrounded by snow-coverered mountains for maximum visual impact, and Lake Tahoe “fit the bill.”
NHL officials said on Monday that they were blown away with Lake Tahoe and its proven track record for hosting major events.
“We went to Tahoe, a very small group, and we were blown away by the setting, the blank canvas that it presents for us,” NHL chief content producer Steve Mayer said. “It’s hosted major events before. We felt very confident, especially in a short time frame, that we would be able to hold a world-class event and Tahoe will be a great host. It was a pretty easy decision.”
The NHL officially announced on Monday it will hold two games on an outdoor rink set up at Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada.
Vegas will play Colorado on Saturday, Feb. 20 and Boston faces Philadelphia on Sunday, Feb. 21 on a temporary rink set up on the 18th hole at Edgewood, site of the annual American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament. The rink will be on the 18th fairway, near the green, and will take approximately two weeks to build after construction starts on Monday, Feb. 8, just after Super Bowl weekend.
“We’re thrilled to be coming to Lake Tahoe,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during a Monday conference call where he officially announced the league’s new event, NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe. “We were looking for a picturesque, magnificent place with a lake and mountains that are snow covered. Lake Tahoe fit the bill and we’re thrilled to be going there.”
Tahoe was chosen over several locations, including six or seven states and three provinces in Canada, officials said while declining to name the other host candidates.
The relationship Edgewood and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority have with NBC and ACC officials also came into play.
“Our strong relationships really laid the groundwork,” said LTVA President and CEO Carol Chaplin. “We knew we could host them this year and handle their needs.”
“It certainly helped,” Mayer said of the longstanding relationships that helped make the decision.
Chaplin said the process to host the NHL wasn’t long and started in the fall.
“We had some Christmas Eve phone conversations with the NHL family,” Chaplin said.
The golf course offers plenty of space to set up a temporary rink and the resort at Edgewood allows the league to have a bubble-like environment, which worked during the ACC in July.
No fans will be allowed to attend and players will be under strict protocols due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the visuals on TV and social media should be spectacular.
“It’s truly millions of dollars of exposure and we couldn’t have a better endorsement with the NHL choosing to come here,” Chaplin said. “This is something people can almost touch and feel and get close to through the TV. It’s invaluable, we can’t buy this.”
As far as boaters braving the cold and parking along the shoreline like at the ACC, Chaplin said she would discourage that and that it won’t be a good place to watch.
“There’s gotta be some crazy people getting out there right?” Chaplin said. “But there will be security and no access so we would discourage that. It won’t be great viewing from there.”
Colorado Avalanche General manager Joe Sakic is returning to Edgewood where he sank a hole-in-one worth $1 million at the 2011 ACC.
“Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful areas in the world and a perfect spot for an outdoor game,” Sakic said in a statement. “Although we wish our great fans could be there in person, we know they will enjoy watching what will be a great weekend of hockey.”
Both games will be played at noon on NBC. The games will be the 31st and 32nd such events since the league started producing outdoor games in 2003.
Along with the ACC, Edgewood has hosted the 1985 U.S. Senior Open and 1980 U.S. Amateur Public Links.
“If you’re a sports fan, this is a big deal,” Chaplin said. “We’ve hosted the ACC and Amgen, now we have professional hockey to highlight. For us it means showing the postcard of our destination to millions of viewers.”