SBD/Issue 76/Events & Attractions

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  • NHL Scores Rave Reviews For Winter Classic At Fenway Park

    Sellout Crowd Of 38,112 Watches The
    Bruins Beat The Flyers In Overtime Friday
    The Bruins beat the Flyers 2-1 in overtime Friday before a sellout crowd of 38,112 at Fenway Park in the third annual NHL Winter Classic, and the league "soaked up rave reviews" for the event, according to Steve Keating of REUTERS. The event now has "caught the imagination of the public and sponsors." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "If there is any indication to the traction this is getting from sponsors and advertisers -- business partner investment has increased at about 66[%] a year so the message is taking hold" (REUTERS, 1/2). In N.Y., Sandomir & Belson reported the Winter Classic has "turned into a profit center for a league that strives to be different." Friday's event was expected to generate $8M in ticket sales and $3M in "ad revenue for NBC, triple the total" of the first Winter Classic in '08. The NHL noted that its sponsorship sales are growing at a 66% annual pace and that "its merchandise revenue, led by the throwback jerseys inspired by the first Classic, is soaring." NHL COO John Collins said, "The big-event strategy has been critical to bringing in corporate advertising dollars." He added, "The Winter Classic let us walk into a place with real interest from corporate sponsors; it's the kind of event that's on everybody's radar as the newest New Year's Day event" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/31). FORBES' Michael Ozanian reported this year's Winter Classic has 16 partners that were slated to spend over $10M "against the event in the form of sponsorship, media and on-site activation -- more than double last year's game." This is an "amazing achievement at a time when corporate sponsorships are trending down," so "kudos to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL" (FORBES.com, 12/31).

    INSTANT CLASSIC: In N.Y., Jeff Klein noted the atmosphere at Fenway Park "was terrific and so was the game," as a "party mood prevailed." Bruins RW Mark Recchi said of Thursday's practice, "Walking out when it was snowing was an amazing feeling" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/2). Flyers RW Ian Laperriere said, "I've never played in front of that many people in my life, and it was great to see it. It was unbelievable when they were chanting the names of the teams back and forth. It's a great experience that I'll cherish for the rest of my life" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/2). Bruins D Zdeno Chara: "It was incredible. It's hard to describe it. It was one of those things you'll experience just once in a lifetime" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/2). Bruins LW Shawn Thornton: "The warm-up was pretty surreal, seeing everybody there." He added of the event, "I hope it builds the brand, obviously. The NHL has done a great job marketing it, (putting it) on NBC, and hopefully a lot of people tuned in" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 1/1). YAHOO SPORTS' Ross McKeon wrote under the header, "Winter Classic Keeps Getting Better." Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said, "It was just an unbelievable experience to be a part of it -- for our organization, for our players, for the fans. It was a great day for hockey" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/1). Boston Mayor Thomas Menino: "It's been a very special week in the city. This game brought a lot of energy with it. ... I told the commissioner, I want this back next year. I love this" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/2). YAHOO SPORTS' Ryan Lambert presents a photo essay of the Winter Classic (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/2).

    (l to r) Comcast-Spectacor's Peter Luukko,
    NHL's Jamey Horan and John Collins, and
    Flyers' Paul Holmgren At Winter Classic
    HAPPY NEW YEAR! ESPN.com's Burnside & LeBrun wrote the weather for the Winter Classic "was again golden." The snow during Thursday's practice "provided great optics for the lead-in to the game, and the game itself Friday went off without a hitch." Burnside & LeBrun awarded the event an "A" grade (ESPN.com, 1/2). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote the crowd "made the day" at Friday's event, which produced "one of the most magical afternoons in the history" of Fenway Park. Friday's game "lacked the Currier & Ives snowfall that marked Thursday's photogenic practice session, but everything else worked out the way it was sketched on the NHL blueprint." It was a "magical day in Boston sports" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/2). SI's Sarah Kwak wrote Friday's game was "yet another storybook event" for the NHL and a "great day for hockey" (SI.com, 1/1). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts: "For the NHL, this was perfection" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/2). In Boston, Steve Conroy: "It was the most electric atmosphere anyone could imagine for a hockey game" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/2). The CBC's Scott Morrison wrote under the header, "NHL Exceeds Winter Classic Expectations" (CBC.ca, 1/1).  ESPN's Steve Levy said the Winter Classic "was a home run." ESPN's Barry Melrose said it "might have been back-to-back home runs it was so good" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/1). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau wrote the Winter Classic "couldn't have been more of a hit." The placement of the rink was "closer to the infield" than it was in Wrigley Field last year, "heightening the sense of intimacy and providing top-shelf views" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 1/1). In Boston, Steve Buckley wrote the game was "an event you'll never forget." The NHL "did an outstanding job dressing up Fenway Park for hockey while also paying homage to the many baseball elements in the old ballyard" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/2).

    I AM LEGEND: In Boston, Eric Moskowitz reported Saturday's AT&T Legends Classic hockey game at Fenway Park drew 33,000 fans, a "record crowd for a charity sporting event in Boston." Actor Kiefer Sutherland, who played in the game, said, "How cool was it that they all showed up? I mean, I don't know how many people can actually say they skated in front of 33,000 people." The event, which also included Bruins Exec VP Charlie Jacobs and Red Sox Chair Tom Werner, "raised $200,000 apiece for the Bruins and Red Sox charitable foundations and a third charity, Hockey Fights Cancer" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/3). Bruins VP and Hockey HOFer Cam Neely said of playing in Saturday's game, "I could not believe the support that these people showed" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/3).

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  • NHL Turns Winter Classic Focus To '11; Are Two Games In Play?

    Penguins-Capitals Could Be The Featured
    Attraction In Next Year's Winter Classic
    Friday's Flyers-Bruins game at Fenway Park marked "another successful Winter Classic" for the NHL, and now the league is "looking ahead to 2011, where the tentative plan is to hold two outdoor games if possible," according to Eric Duhatschek of the GLOBE & MAIL. A tentative plan calls for the first game "in its regular slot, on New Year's Day," while a second matchup in Canada would be "part of the annual Hockey Day in Canada celebrations." The rumored favorite for next year's event in the U.S. was Yankee Stadium, but a "conflict with a proposed college football bowl game may make that impossible." If the Yankee Stadium game does not materialize, then the "second choice appears to be Heinz Field" for a Capitals-Penguins pairing, with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, the NHL's "two most marketable players, going head-to-head." An outdoor game in Canada "will likely land in Calgary, with the Flames as host team" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/4). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun said a Capitals-Penguins matchup in the Winter Classic next year would be a game "some people at the league would absolutely love to see January 1." He said Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis told him that he "really want(s) my team in this thing next year." However, LeBrun noted, "If Pittsburgh gets in, I think some owners will have their nose out of joint because they obviously played in the first Winter Classic" ("HNIC," CBC, 1/2).

    NEXT IN LINE? In DC, Tarik El-Bashir cited an NHL source as confirming that the Capitals are the "strongest candidate to participate in the fourth annual game next New Year's Day." The source said, "The league will be looking to work around the Capitals to get them into this game." El-Bashir noted those talks "will begin in earnest after the Olympic break in February." Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau: "I think we should be in it because we have the most exciting player in the world and we want to expose him to as many TV sets as possible" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/1). NBC Sports Coordinating Producer Sam Flood said, "There is no doubt that Washington is worthy of playing in the Winter Classic, and it is our goal to fit them in soon. Everyone knows about Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Caps, so it is in our best interest to put them on in the Winter Classic" (WASHINGTON EXAMINER, 12/31).

    Mets "Ready, Willing And Able" To
    Host Winter Classic At Citi Field
    BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITI: Mets COO Jeff Wilpon last week said that he has "notified the commissioner that the Mets are ready, willing and able" to host the Winter Classic at Citi Field. Wilpon: "I've had several conversations with Commissioner Bettman and have informed him that we'd love to have the game. Gary has told me that he and his team will come out and do a site visit early in the year, so I know that we are going to be under consideration." In addition, Wilpon said that he has spoken with MSG Chair James Dolan and Islanders Owner Charles Wang about a possible Rangers-Islanders game at Citi Field. Wilpon: "There's interest there. I know the Islanders very much would like to do something." But in N.Y., Larry Brooks noted NBC is not "thrilled at the concept of presenting a single-market game to the national New Year's Day audience" (N.Y. POST, 1/3). ESPN's Barry Melrose said, "The only way you beat this is I think you've got to go to a city like New York, you've got to throw down the gauntlet to the Rangers fans. You put it in the Yankee Stadium or maybe the new Mets stadium" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/1). In N.Y., Klein & Hackel noted an '11 Winter Classic at Yankee Stadium "seems unlikely" because the plans to stage a college football bowl game at the park between December 25 and January 1 would put the game "within the minimum one-week period the NHL mandates for rink construction" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/3).

    WANT TO BE A PART OF IT: In New Jersey, Andrew Gross reported NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman this weekend indicated that discussions on the host cities for '11 "would not begin immediately." Bettman: "We want a community where the game can have an impact, first and foremost, in addition to a good market that we think will support the game. We need the right facility. And, obviously, we have to be in a place where we think the weather will be OK." Rangers GM Glen Sather said the club would "be happy to be a part" of the Winter Classic if the NHL was interested. New Jersey state officials are "pushing for a Devils-Rangers game at the new Meadowlands football stadium," but while the NHL "very much wants the Rangers involved, the league does not want to present such a regionalized matchup." Meanwhile, Bettman said of playing in football stadiums, "The football schedule is a little more complicated. We get more time to set up and tear down and use more events when the team, like a baseball team, isn't playing for weeks. Being in a football stadium, even if we schedule around it, we have got to worry about playoff games and what's barely a two-week window" (Bergen RECORD, 1/2). Former NHLPA Dir of Player Affairs Glenn Healy said the league needs to get the Winter Classic "in one place, and it's New York City." NBC has to "put pressure on New York to get this thing to make it happen." But the CBC's Mike Milbury said, "And so it begins, the rape of the Winter Classic. They've got something that's beautiful, pristine, pure, and now we're going to sellout to every network" ("HNIC," CBC, 1/2).

    THE BEST OF WHAT'S AROUND: ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote each of the three Winter Classics has "managed the impressive feat of being better than the previous one," and the NHL's "challenge is in making sure future events follow this pattern." The league for the first time "opened up a bid process to come up with a host for the 2011 game," a process that will "force teams to think outside the box in suggesting venues and activities that will 'wow' the league." That bid process will "close around the end of the Olympic break in February." Burnside wrote the Winter Classic "has to be about more than just having good fans," and by its "very nature has to have classic elements." Denver should be considered to host "if the NHL is looking to keep some sort of balance between the two conferences," while Minnesota is a "natural given the state's long love affair with the game." Burnside: "In the end, the challenge of maintaining the Classic's magical spark isn't about being fair, it's about making the right choices. Given the standards set the past three years, continuing to make those right choices will become more and more difficult" (ESPN.com, 1/1). Meanwhile, the CBC's Elliotte Friedman reported Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is "inquiring as to whether he could host the game in the future" at the new retractable-roof Cowboys Stadium. Friedman: "It would be an enormous financial windfall, but of course it wouldn't be a true Winter Classic. Let's see if they investigate it" ("HNIC," CBC, 1/2).

    Writer Says NHL Needs To Connect
    Fans More Intimately To On-Ice Product
    NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the NHL "pulled off their Winter Classic with grace and panache," and the league now needs to "figure out how to connect the paying customers more intimately to the on-ice product." Many ticket-holders at Friday's game "barely knew what was happening when the game clock was running," and the "experience of following the puck was akin to watching an Agatha Christie play." Dupont: "Whodunit? Whopassedit? Whoscorredit? Whotheheckknows?" The NHL needs to "hook up with the Jumbotron folks and find a way to park the plasma high over center ice." The league also should "pipe the on-ice noise into the PA system for everyone in the park to hear," because "not being able to listen to the shots, the checks into the boards, or the on-ice officials' whistles is just plan lonesco sur glace" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/3).

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