SBD/January 3, 2011/Events and Attractions

Lincoln Financial Field Front-Runner To Host '12 Winter Classic

Flyers Could Play Host To Winter Classic At Lincoln Financial Field Next Year

Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field is a “front-runner” to land the ’12 Winter Classic, according to the CBC’s Pierre LeBrun. The NHL “prefers the NFL stadium model compared to the baseball stadium because there’s more seating (and) better line sights.” The Avalanche also are “interested and have a shot” at hosting the game. The Wild repeatedly have expressed their desire to host the game, but the league does not “see the Wild as a very sexy team to have in the game.” The CBC’s Glenn Healy noted several things need to happen before the location of the ’12 Winter Classic is decided, including the “quest for a major U.S. TV deal.” The FCC is scheduled to approve the NBC/Comcast merger later this month, and the NHL is the “number one property in sports up first” after the merger. However, if ESPN signs a broadcast deal with the league, they “might not even want a New Year’s Day game to go up against some of their bowl games.” Healy: “If NBC gets it, they love January 1. A lot has to happen before the next spot is picked” (“Hockey Night In Canada,” CBC, 1/1). Comcast-Spectacor President & COO Peter Luukko yesterday said that the Flyers had "not yet been contacted by the NHL." But he added, "We would certainly like to play a game in Philly next year or in the future." In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli writes, "It seems to make sense that the NHL could be interested in the Flyers to host their next premier regular-season game: The Flyers are a successful, big-market team with a supportive fan base; they produce record ratings on television; the NHL prefers football stadiums to baseball venues; and weather has proven to not be the ultimate obstacle." Philadelphia Sports Congress Exec Dir Larry Needle: "We'd be high on their list, a tremendous market to host an event like that. We would do whatever we could to pull it all together" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/3).

WHO'S GOT NEXT? ESPN.com's Scott Burnside noted, "The challenge for the NHL is in opening the door to other teams, other venues." It "must remain a cruelly selective process, though." Burnside: "Many have suggested Minnesota would be a natural to host a Winter Classic. Not a chance. Not with the team defined only by its mediocrity. ... We think Denver and the Avs remain an intriguing possibility. The Avs are a young and dynamic team. What about a game in Detroit at the University of Michigan's Big House featuring the Wings and the Avs in the next couple of years?" (ESPN.com, 1/2). In St. Louis, Jeremy Rutherford reported if Dave Checketts has his way, it "won't be long before his Blues are playing in the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium" against the Blackhawks. Checketts has "already had talks with Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt about hosting the game at Busch." If the NHL "chose not to award a Winter Classic game to St. Louis," Checketts said that the Blues "would be interested in playing in another city." Blues TV analyst Darren Pang: "St. Louis could easily host a Winter Classic. In fact, I would call St. Louis one of the No. 1 possibilities" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/1).  

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: YAHOO SPORTS' Sean Leahy suggested that the Kings and Rangers face off at New Meadowlands Stadium for next year's Jan. 1 outdoor game. Leahy: "We've now witnessed four Winter Classics and not one has been played in (or involved) the biggest television market in the country." He added, "Imagine the buzz if Wayne Gretzky made his second outdoor alumni game appearance and played half the game in a Rangers jersey and the second half in the old silver and black of the Kings?" Also, it is "not just the NHL making the decision on who's involved." NBC "has their say in order for them to achieve the highest ratings possible and so will whomever gets the rights to the game next year." While some ideas "might be great for the hardcore hockey fan, the goal of the TV partner is to be able to market it to the mainstream fan" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/2). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote, "If the event is about gate receipts, it won't be coming to New York for some time." But if it is "as much about finding the perfect backdrop for television, if it is about the setting as much as it is about marquee teams, then Central Park would be the perfect venue." Brooks: "If they can build a rink on Sheep’s Meadow with temporary stands seating up to 20,000 -- people will come. If they play the Winter Classic in New York, people will notice" (N.Y. POST, 1/2).

WHAT ABOUT CANADA? In N.Y., Jeff Klein wrote his proposal for next year's game is Rangers-Maple Leafs at Rogers Centre, "roof open, CN Tower looming overhead, day or night." Klein: "The Winter Classic has been an all-U.S. affair up to now, largely because NBC fears losing ratings if a Canadian city is involved. But Americans skittish about words like 'Ottawa' and 'Edmonton' are used to Toronto after years of watching the baseball Blue Jays and basketball Raptors." Also, the Rangers are the "last Original Six team not to play in a Winter Classic." In recent years they "have not been camera-ready, but now they are a young, dynamic, charismatic team that wins." But there is "no way a Winter Classic would work in Gotham" (NYTIMES.com, 1/2).

CHILL IN THE AIR: The Calgary Sun's Eric Francis reported a lot of Flames fans are “very upset at where their tickets have been placed” for the Feb. 20 Heritage Classic between the Flames and the Canadiens, as well as the “price involved.” The Flames have “worked very, very hard at trying to explain to people that a) there’s not a good seat in the house for an outdoor game really, and b) this is not a money-making proposition. At best, it’s a break-even proposition.” Francis: “I’m not saying that’s true. I’m just saying that’s how they’re positioning it at this point.” The NHL “has purchased the game from the Flames,” so it is “not a big concern” for the team (“HNIC,” CBC, 1/1).

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