DALLAS — The 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1 (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS) will be the first outdoor NHL game in Texas, and as with every NHL outdoor game, the location presents unique opportunities.
“We love it,” NHL executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer said Monday. “We want to make sure that when a fan tunes in, no matter where they’re watching the game, they know where it’s being produced.
“This is unique for us. Texas hockey has really blossomed over the 26 years that the Stars have been here, and we’ve watched it. This is the ode to that. It’s a true showcase of how far the Dallas Stars have come.”
With a new stadium and state to use when creating the in-game presentation and experience, Mayer has enjoyed the planning that has gone into the event. The goal is to make it a unique experience that stands alone when compared to other outdoor games.
“We’re able to be creative,” he said. “I love my job because every single place we go, we try to make it look and feel different. That is the challenge, but that’s what makes it fun. Dallas is a great place. … Everything is beyond expectation here in Dallas for us. I’m having fun.”
In addition to the building of the rink and ice surface, Mayer and the rest of his crew are getting the stadium decorated and preparing for the Truly Hard Seltzer NHL PreGame, which will feature interactive hockey games and attractions inside The State Fair of Texas Midway.
“The fact that we’re activating the State Fair and essentially bringing the State Fair inside the stadium, we think it’s going to be exciting,” Mayer said. “It’s a great theme and a lot is going to be happening for fans.”
Preparing for the event brings a variety of challenges, but Mayer said he’s enjoying weaving the state of Texas, the Cotton Bowl, and other traditions and themes with the game of hockey. He hopes the hard work not only translates to a creative production, but also creates new hockey fans in the process.
“We’re promoting the game of hockey,” he said. “It’s not all the time that you get to play a hockey game in front of 86,000 people. What an amazing opportunity to get in front of so many people, and if we put on a great show, what this could do for hockey and the NHL.
“There are people coming here for the spectacle of an event. If they leave happy and saying, ‘Wow, that was great and the experience was incredible,’ we think it translates into hockey fans for life.”
Mayer said he’s been impressed with the response from fans planning on attending the game.
“This is a bucket list [item] for a lot of people,” he said. “That’s why it’s hard for us to go back to places. We feel like the original time is always going to be unique and special. Some of the things we have planned, with the spectacle of it all, it will be certainly unique to anything we’ve ever done.”
The planning and preparing continues to roll along at Cotton Bowl Stadium. But by the time Jan. 1 comes, Mayer said he’s expecting an unforgettable experience for all hockey fans, whether they at the game or watching on TV.
“You try to do the best you can and you try to bring in as much to the environment that you think will resonate and people will enjoy and go, ‘That felt like a big event,'” Mayer said. “That’s probably the No. 1 goal. You have to walk away and think, ‘That was super cool. That was different and I’m so happy I bought a ticket for that.’
“What’s going to happen in the next week is going to be amazing when this whole thing comes to life. So far, so good.”