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The NHL yesterday formally announced that the Tim Hortons Heritage Classic will return next year when the Canucks face the Senators at BC Place in Vancouver on March 2. The game will be broadcast live on the CBC and RDS in Canada and on NBC Sports Network in the U.S. (NHL). In Ottawa, Don Brennan notes the outdoor event will be the "first time a game is played in a retractable-roof facility -- so the likelihood of rain in Vancouver won't put a damper on things." The Canucks also will be "just the third Canadian team to host an outdoor game" (OTTAWA SUN, 7/11). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside writes each outdoor game "represents something unique in its marketplace, so if there is a lessening of the oomph factor nationally, the NHL is banking on more than making up for it with the interest in places such as New York, Chicago and the Los Angeles area." Of course, every game also "represents a battle between a pro sports league and Mother Nature, and now that battle will be waged times six -- heightening the likelihood of some sort of natural impediment to a game coming off as planned." But that is "part of the drama, no?" (ESPN.com, 7/11).
INDOORS NOT GOOD ENOUGH? In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes the Heritage Classic is "really a test, an examination of the hockey market here that everyone knows is pretty strong." Execs want to "find out just exactly how stupid and gullible people are when it comes to NHL hockey, and it's pretty clear they are betting a fair bit of money that you fans are literally as dumb as a bag of hammers." The NHL is apparently "not content to put 18,000 fans in Rogers Arena, paying up to $315 for tickets while the same game is being shown on high-definition television in the very living rooms fans have just vacated to make their way down to the rink in the pouring rain." Now they want "50,000 of you to pay to leave your home to assemble and view a game that will be so far away that you will need binoculars just to determine if in fact it's ice or field hockey being watched." If the teams "pull it off it will be a marketing tour de force" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 7/11).
COULD GO EITHER WAY: YAHOO SPORTS' Harrison Mooney wrote, "Like all the other outdoor games, it will undoubtedly be a fun event, and as a West Coast-based hockey fan, it's nice to be thrown a bone." But it would be "nicer if said thrown bone didn't also double as evidence that the lustre of the Winter Classic is soon to be gone" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/10). In Vancouver, Mooney in a special piece wrote the "most overwhelming evidence for East Coast Bias I've seen to date is the League thinking it's a good idea to schedule an outdoor game in Vancouver in March." Mooney: "Have they ever been here that time of year? It tends to be balmy and rainy." There is a "good chance the game could be a literal hot mess" (VANCOUVERSUN.com, 7/10).
Driver Jeff Gordon "thinks maybe it's time" for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to "try a midweek date," according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. Gordon said, "I think when 'Monday Night Football' ends, we should start `Monday Night Racing.' But that's just me. Of course I came from `Thursday Night Thunder,' and `Thursday Night Thunder' was ridiculously successful back in the day." But Gordon said that NASCAR officials have been "cold to the idea." Gordon: "It seems like every time I talk to NASCAR about doing a weekly race or one midweek, they say `Oh well if you do it on this day, you won't get as many people coming to the track, so the track suffers.'" He added, "I am not saying we need to do it every week, but if we could find the right week in the schedule and mix it up, make it special, and make it make sense for the fans at home as well as the ones that could attend, then I think it would be awesome" (AP, 7/10).
WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE GUY? SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass noted ISC recently announced plans to "decrease capacity" at several tracks, so "gone are the cheap seats." That "raises the big question: Will any cheap seats remain for the fans saving vacation money to make an annual pilgrimage to a racetrack?" For fans "clinging to every dollar to get to a race, that doesn’t sound like a good thing." ISC would be "foolish -- very foolish -- to price out the diehard working-class fan who supported the sport before all the big television deals, before all the money and glamour." Pockrass: "We'll watch your ticket prices. Don't price out the little guy" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/9).