SAN JOSE -- The Sharks want to bring outdoor hockey to the Bay Area, and their hopes for that are linked to the success or failure of the NHL's first warm-weather stadium effort Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.

If all goes well there, according to Sharks chief operating officer John Tortora, Northern California is halfway home to a spot on the league's "short list" of future sites.

Tortora said he has pitched the idea to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and was told the league was very interested in having the Sharks as hosts for a future game, but two things had to happen first.

"One, Los Angeles has to be successful from a weather standpoint because while Northern California is about 10 degrees cooler on average, it's still a warm-weather climate," Tortora said. "Two, the league has to make a decision whether they want to continue with the stadium series next year or the year after."

The league has staged an outdoor Winter Classic each season since 2008. This season, the NHL expanded the concept to include a "stadium series" of four other games. The first of those take place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday when the Los Angeles Kings meet the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks had two representatives of their operations department on the scene Friday to observe the set-up.


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The Sharks are looking at three possible sites for an outdoor game: AT&T Park in San Francisco, Stanford Stadium on the university's campus or Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, the new home of the 49ers.

Tortora said only preliminary conversations were held with operators of the three facilities, each of which has its own pros and cons that go beyond distance from San Jose.

"The obvious ones are that AT&T has greater scheduling flexibility than Levi's Stadium because we anticipate the 49ers would be going at least as far as they did this year, and the NHL needs two or three weeks of lead time to build the ice," Tortora said. "That's one obvious thing."

But, he added, "you also want to look at things such as the capacity of the building, you want to look at the weather differences. San Francisco has different weather than Santa Clara or Palo Alto, so that's an impact as well."

Levi's Stadium could be used for a game in March, for example, but that increases the likelihood of warm-weather problems.

The Sharks haven't done the market research yet to determine what the ideal capacity would be or other financial details, Tortora said. The NHL itself runs each of the outdoor games with the local franchise involved in the process.

Weather is the biggest challenge in Southern California, where temperatures are forecast to reach the upper 70s Saturday. The sun is the biggest concern and the main reason the game starts after dark.

Even if all goes well at Dodger Stadium, Tortora said, the league is expected to wait until the four other games are completed -- Sunday and Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, and March 1 at Soldier Field in Chicago -- before any decision is made on future outdoor contests beyond the Winter Classic.

"In terms of whether the league wants the stadium series at all, I think you have to focus on each one of the outdoor games and see in total whether it's too much outdoor hockey or not, see whether there's still a demand for it by the television networks, by the teams and by the fan bases," Tortora said.

For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.