SBD/Issue 73/Events & Attractions

Heavy Rains Could Force Delay, Postponement Of Winter Classic

Winter Classic Has Seven-Hour Window With
NBC, CBC Before Delay To Jan. 2 Is Needed

NHL officials yesterday said that Saturday's Capitals-Penguins Winter Classic game "could be pushed back to as late" as 8:00pm ET or even to Sunday if "heavy rain makes playing conditions on the rink installed at Heinz Field unacceptable" for the scheduled 1:00pm start, according to Dave Molinari of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. NHL Senior VP/Events & Entertainment Don Renzulli said that if the game "could not be played Saturday, it would be delayed until noon Sunday," and if that is a "no-go as well, the game would be rescheduled for Consol Energy Center at a later date." Renzulli added, "We're going to do everything humanly possible to play this game, come Saturday" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/28). Renzulli noted that the NHL's "window with the television networks, NBC and CBC, is so long that the game could be delayed up to seven hours before it would finally have to be postponed until noon on Jan. 2" (NHL.com, 12/27). In DC, Katie Carrera notes any "decision to delay, postpone or move the Winter Classic from the upcoming weekend would be made by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who would meet with representatives" from the Capitals and Penguins, the NHLPA and "members of the league's hockey operations staff before any changes would be agreed upon" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/28). Saturday and Sunday are the "only days the Winter Classic can be played because the stadium must be turned back over to the Steelers." The Heinz Field turf "has to be replaced for the second time this season before any Steelers home playoff game" (AP, 12/27). NHL VP/Player Development & Event Communications Jamey Horan indicated that if the league postponed the game to a later date at Consol Energy Center, "all ticket money would be refunded." Horan noted that "no ticket-distribution plan has been finalized" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/28).

CAMPAIGNING FOR WASHINGTON: Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis said he expects DC to host a Winter Classic "in a two- or three-year window." While Bettman "offered no commitment on a Winter Classic site" beyond this year's game, he did say that the NHL's goal is "for the Caps to host the Classic in the DC area." The NHL has looked at Nationals Park and FedExField as "potential sites in and around Washington, along with Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards." The league "makes the call," but Leonsis said that he "believes it should be DC's game" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/26). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that Nationals Park and FedExField are the "early front-runners to host the Winter Classic that has been promised to the Capitals" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/24). 

PREPARING FOR PITTSBURGH: In Pittsburgh, Bob Cohn noted the Penguins as Winter Classic host "will receive a home 'buy-out' from the league, compensating for the ticket, parking and concession revenues a normal home game would have brought in." Still, Bettman "insists the Classic is not a huge windfall, stressing the exposure as a significant add-on." He noted it costs "many millions" to stage the event, adding, "The direct economic impact is probably overstated because this is a very expensive event to produce. We do this more for the ancillary benefits, some of which may be financial" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/26). Ahead of the Capitals-Penguins Winter Classic, Bettman discussed the event in a Q&A, as did Steelers President Art Rooney II.

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