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).