The 2024 Stadium Series: A Triumph for the NHL and New York

The 2024 Stadium Series drew record attendance and viewership, indicating the continued growth of hockey in New York.

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After Artemi Panarin’s overtime goal was announced to be good, MetLife Stadium went into an utter frenzy. The tally capped off a thrilling 6-5 win for the New York Rangers, who defeated the New York Islanders in the highly anticipated 2024 Stadium Series. The Islanders took a commanding lead early in the first period, as centers Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, and Bo Horvat all scored in a three minute flurry. The two teams traded goals until late in the third period, when the Rangers took advantage of Islanders penalties and tied the game. Panarin then shocked the Islanders and abruptly scored 10 seconds into overtime, giving the Rangers the victory.

Besides the almost dozen goals, the game featured Rangers rookie Matthew Rempe fighting veteran Matt Martin of the Islanders. The Islanders-Rangers Stadium Series was a surprisingly successful sequel to the NHL’s other annual outdoor event, the Winter Classic, which saw the Seattle Kraken shut out the Vegas Golden Knights on New Year’s Day.

The 2024 Stadium Series was revealed back in June 2023 when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced outdoor games between the Islanders and Rangers as well as the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils. The announcement was met with excitement from Islanders and Rangers fans because the last outdoor game between the two took place a decade ago. But many people saw the upcoming Stadium Series as a mere extension of the traditional Winter Classic, with the thought that it would receive less fan turnout and viewership.

However, the Stadium Series blew past expectations. Despite a controversial jersey reveal for the game weeks before, fans remained optimistic, and ticket prices soared after musical guests were announced. The Jonas Brothers were slated to play a concert before the Flyers-Devils game, and AJR was announced to be performing an intermission set at the Islanders-Rangers game. Parking lots were set to be opened early for fans, creating the opportunity for tailgating. Thus, the Flyers-Devils game drew in an impressive 70,328 fans on game day—a record for the Stadium Series and far more than the average NHL game (15,000 and 21,000 respectively). Despite the Flyers-Devils attendance setting an unprecedented record by hockey standards, it would be surpassed by the very next game. The showdown between the Islanders and Rangers brought 79,690 fans to MetLife Stadium, which falls short of only three other games in NHL history for attendance.

Not only were attendance figures setting records, but so too were viewership numbers. Per a release from ESPN, the game averaged 1.57 million viewers at home. This tops every other game from this season, including the Winter Classic and season opener. Typically, the Winter Classic has the highest viewership of any regular season game. This year marked a shift from that trend. However, this isn’t to say that the Winter Classic lost popularity this year. In-person attendance reached 47,313 fans—almost 8,000 more than last season’s game. At-home viewership did reach a low, but this can be attributed to the Rose Bowl game airing at the same time.

The 2024 Stadium Series proved that fan interest in outdoor games is not waning, but growing. More serious fans turned up in-person despite ticket inflation, and more casual fans watched it over other sporting events. The growth of the game will benefit everyone involved in the league, as more fans means higher salary caps and bigger contracts. The series also has other implications, especially for New York hockey. Due to the overwhelming success of the Islanders-Rangers game, another matchup may be announced in the future—and fans might not have to wait a decade this time around.

There are already positive ramifications of the Stadium Series. During the game, the NHL announced that the 2026 All-Star Game would be held at the Islanders’ UBS Arena in Belmont. This will be the first time since 1983 that the Islanders are hosting the league’s best players. Rangers fans will also be able to attend the game in large numbers, as Belmont is accessible to those both in and out of the city. 

Islanders and Rangers fans, there’s no reason to worry. The Stadium Series has shown that there is greater potential for hockey in New York, and that events like the All-Star Game at UBS Arena will usher in new fans and players. Hockey culture only has room to grow.