NHL Runs Risk Of Sucking Pizzazz From Outdoor Games With Oversaturation
NHL fans, sponsors and owners "love the idea" of outdoor games and "everyone wants to host one," but the question remains whether that means "they should get one," according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. If the NHL "moves forward with this notion of flooding the marketplace with outdoor games, it will have done the nearly impossible -- sucking the pizzazz out of the Winter Classic and rendering it, dare we say, ordinary." The outdoor games "will all have a certain sameness and they will all become regional events." Sunday's Canadiens-Flames Heritage Classic "barely registered as an event" in the U.S. There was "no build-up like there was for the Winter Classic over the past three years," rather it was a "regional game between two Canadian teams." Burnside: "Nothing wrong with that, but the league better be careful what it wishes for." Meanwhile, Burnside wrote there is "something absolutely unique" about Minnesota's "fascination and connection to the game." The "beauty of having an NHL outdoor game in Minnesota is the league, USA Hockey and the NCAA would be able to put on a grand show that transcends the game itself" (ESPN.com, 2/21). In Montreal, Pat Hickey writes the "only thing classic" about the Heritage Classic was the "classic extremes in the weather." Hickey: "While conditions vary from arena to arena, the state of the playing surface at McMahon Stadium seriously undermined the credibility of the NHL. Hockey at this level should showcase speed and physical play, but the ice was so hard that it was difficult to maintain speed, particularly in the corners. And the bone-chilling cold meant players spent most of the game tiptoeing away from the opportunity to make big hits. This was a game between two teams battling for playoff berths, and they should have played under conditions that reflected the importance of the game" (Montreal GAZETTE, 2/22).
JUMPING ON THE BANDWAGON: In Calgary, John Dowd notes the WHL drew 20,888 fans yesterday for the Regina Pats-Calgary Hitmen game, the "first WHL game to be played outdoors in Canada." There is "little wonder" the WHL would like to "stage at least one outdoor game per season following Monday's smashing success at McMahon Stadium." WHL Commissioner Ron Robison: "We've had a number of inquiries from other centres in the league, and we had a couple of teams here today observing. Certainly there's a lot of interest, but it's a major undertaking and not necessarily something we can do on an annual basis, but we're certainly going to be looking at it more in the future. I think we have room for at least one. We'd like to be part of the NHL Heritage Classic festivities moving forward." Dowd notes the "first WHL outdoor game actually was staged in Spokane last month in front of a crowd of 7,525 when the Chiefs played host to the Kootenay Ice" (CALGARY HERALD, 2/22).