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Volume 24 No. 156

Events and Attractions

The Flames defeated the Canadiens 4-0 yesterday in the NHL Tim Hortons Heritage Classic in front of 41,022 fans at McMahon Stadium, and Flames President & CEO Ken King said that the outdoor contest “exceeded expectations” despite temperatures hovering around 15 degrees, according to Schneider & Busby of the CALGARY SUN. King said, “This was better than we ever imagined. We had high hopes but it went better than that.” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that “both squads enjoyed playing outdoors.” Bettman: “Feedback we got was they really enjoyed the experience, which is what we typically get from the players who play in one of these games.” He added, “This event, this outdoor game, probably in terms of infrastructure, setup and what we had to put into the event, was the most complex and most intensive of all the ones we’ve done” (CALGARY SUN, 2/21). Bettman noted, “Our sponsor activation and investment in this was higher than in any Winter Classic, so from a fans standpoint, the media platforms, player experience and from business partners, this was a terrific, terrific event for us” (CALGARY HERALD, 2/21). In Calgary, Eric Francis wrote, “By most accounts, it was a perfect day” (CALGARY SUN, 2/21).

SLIPPERY SLOPE? The GLOBE & MAIL’s Allan Maki writes the Heritage Classic “was splendid viewing, expect for one thing -- the actual game.” At times it “swung between comical, passable to potentially dangerous.” You “had to suspect the game was in for a rough go” when NHL officials “decided not to use any Zambonis for fear the weighty machine would cause irreparable harm to the very ice it was meant to fix.” In the end, the game will be remembered as a “corporate cash bonanza for the NHL.” The league “pulled in more sponsorship money here than it did” for the Capitals-Penguins Winter Classic at Heinz Field.” But Maki wonders, “When does the novelty of outdoor hockey in Canada or the U.S. become not only run of the mill but something that cheapens the game, maybe hurts a player who catches a rut and blows out a ligament?” (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/21). Canadiens D James Wisniewski said, “The ice wasn’t up to par. You could see it out there -- (the puck) was like a tennis ball.” Canadiens C Ryan White: “The ice wasn’t great, but what do you expect? It’s going to be like that” (CALGARY HERALD, 2/21). Flames D Cory Sarich: “The boards and glass didn’t seem to have a lot of life, either” (CALGARY HERALD, 2/21). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Eric Duhatschek writes, “A classic? No. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But for what [it] was, a game played under less-than-ideal conditions, one that they may remember for a good long time” (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/21).

APPETITE FOR MORE: NHL COO John Collins indicated that the success of the outdoor games has been “so great the NHL and its sponsors could stage four or five such events every year, prompting a debate over preserving the uniqueness of the event versus satiating the never-ending appetite to host more.” Bettman said, “We were extraordinarily pleased with the experience. But you will have to give us a little more time to figure out what comes next” (CALGARY SUN, 2/21). Bettman: “We have to balance the uniqueness versus an appetite for teams and fans to have these events. Some of the preliminary research we’ve seen is that our fans want more of these. They don’t care how many of these have been held as long as they get one. Obviously, you can’t do an unlimited number and we don’t want to dilute it” (CALGARY SUN, 2/21).’s Pierre LeBrun wrote, “One day we’ll get sick of these outdoor games, but that day isn’t here yet.” Starting in ’12-13, you “might see more than two outdoor games if the league continues to believe in the dynamic appeal of these events” (, 2/20). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes it appears the NHL “is going to sell this outdoor idea and sell it some more until some city, some day, turns up its nose” (TORONTO STAR, 2/21).

WAITING FOR THEIR TURN: The Maple Leafs have yet to play in an outdoor game, and Collins said, “I think ultimately, absolutely we want to get to every Canadian market for sure. Toronto has a lot of strong thoughts about how we would stage a game and where we would stage a game. You know it’s a great market, we want to do something there.” In Toronto, Dan Robson notes Rogers Centre “certainly has the seating capacity” to host a hockey game, but the roof is “sealed shut in the winters.” Collins: “It becomes kind of an arena game, but bigger.” Another option is BMO Field, and Collins said MLSE “has talked about adding seats as their natural growth plan. I think right now it’d be a little tight” (TORONTO STAR, 2/21).

Clippers F Blake Griffin on Saturday won the NBA's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest "with arguably the best finish" in the event's 26-year history, according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Before his final dunk, Griffin summoned a “choir to serenade his attempt” with "I Believe I Can Fly."  Then, taking a pass from Clippers G Baron Davis “through the sunroof of a silver 2011 Kia Optima, Griffin soared over the hood to slam the ball in the basket before landing back on that hood with his arms raised in triumph.” On a night that was “set up to crown Griffin as the NBA's most entertaining flier, the flourish was amazing.” Plaschke writes the “legend of Blake Griffin has just gone turbo.” He is now "capturing the national imagination with every squeak of his sneakers" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20).’s Lee Jenkins wrote Griffin’s “legend continues to rise” after the dunk contest (, 2/20). In L.A., David Wharton wrote Griffin’s win was “another memorable moment to an All-Star weekend that has become a Griffin love fest” (L.A. TIMES, 2/20). USA TODAY's David Leon: "The fans went a little nuts in the dunk contest. ... It is not every day they see a guy jump over a car on a basketball court, and not every day they see a Clipper taking center stage for the NBA" (, 2/19).

RISKY BUSINESS: The AP’s Greg Beacham wrote Griffin’s “inventive dunk demonstrated why many in the NBA believe the 21-year-old has the raw athleticism and entertaining flair to be the league's next big star.” But the move “could have petrified the Clippers since Griffin -- the top pick in the 2009 NBA draft -- broke his kneecap in a preseason game in 2009 and missed all of last season.” Griffin: "I could have clipped my foot, I guess. That's what I was afraid of -- just clip my foot on the side and smash my face into the car. Fortunately, it worked out" (AP, 2/20). The L.A. TIMES’ Plaschke wrote, “How on the earth did the Clippers allow this?” Griffin said, "I noticed when I went in for my rehearsal Thursday night, everybody from the Clippers was there … and then I realized, everybody is kind of nervous about this. So I jumped over it and I kind of looked at them and they are like, all right, you can do it" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20). In L.A., Phil Collin wrote you “didn’t have to be owner Donald Sterling to know this could be another cursed moment in Clipperland” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/20).

PUTTING ON A SHOW: YAHOO SPORTS’ Kelly Dwyer wrote this year’s dunk contest “wasn't exactly a return to form -- the 1988 and 2000 competitions won't be shaking in their respective slammin' boots after watching tape from Saturday night's affair -- but the Blake Griffin-led show was a fun time out” (, 2/20). In Oklahoma City, Jenni Carlson wrote, "The dunk contest has become dull and boring in recent years. The stars have been few, and the intrigue has been nil. Catching the highlights was enough. Now, the dunk contest is must-see TV. Credit the Talented Mr. Griffin” (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 2/19). But in Toronto, Doug Smith wrote the dunk contest “will never be the same,” as the event “has abandoned all pretense of being anything but a show” (TORONTO STAR, 2/20).

The Daytona 500 next year "will be moved to Feb. 26, a week later than it customarily has been run," according to Randy Covitz of the K.C. STAR. A "key factor" in the decision to push the race back a week is the "possibility that [the] NFL's current labor situation could delay the 2011 season and push next year's Super Bowl beyond the first weekend of February, overlapping the first week of Speedweeks, including the Budweiser Shootout." Also, the NFL "could eventually go to an 18-game schedule, placing future Super Bowls later in February." NASCAR Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell said, "Dealing with the NFL, who knows where they go with the 18 game schedule? We want to get ahead of that." Daytona Int'l Speedway President Joie Chitwood said the decision to start the season one week later "was made in close partnership with NASCAR, our broadcast partners including Fox and others within the industry." Covitz noted the '12 NBA All-Star Game "is scheduled for nearby Orlando, which could create a conflict for fans and television viewers" (, 2/20). The AP's Mark Long noted NASCAR officials "declined to say that the date for the next Daytona 500 -- the fourth Sunday in February -- would remain the same in future years." They also "stopped short of announcing other races during 2012 Speedweeks." That could mean officials are "considering condensing Speedweeks from a two-weekend event spanning 11 days to a weeklong extravaganza" (AP, 2/20). Chitwood said that the Rolex 24 At Daytona dates "will be announced within one month" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/21).

GEARING UP FOR ITS FIRST RACE: In Lexington, Mark Story reported Kentucky Speedway has "already sold all of its 32 luxury suites" for the July 9 Sprint Cup race at the track, the first at the facility, at prices between $45,000-50,000 each. The track plans to "add temporary suites in the form of the corporate hospitality tents one sees at the Kentucky Derby." SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith last month said the Cup race at the track "is the hottest ticket we've got of all the speedways right now." Story noted a "big piece yet to be put in place is signing a primary corporate sponsor for the Cup race" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 2/20).

PROMOTING THE PLAYOFFS: In Chicago, Lewis Lazare reports a new TV commercial titled "The Chase Starts Here" promoting Chicagoland Speedway hosting the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup is being released "to coincide with the start of the annual NASCAR season." The ad, via Deep Alliance Marketing, Illinois, "sells the sizzle of NASCAR via various shots of cars in action on the track and in the pit as we hear souped-up voiceover ad copy talking about all the excitement of the chase" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/21).