Wednesday, December 16, 2009
League planning for Canada to host
By Pierre LeBrun
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The NHL wants to hold a second outdoor game, this one in Canada, commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed Wednesday.
"Yes, it's something we're going to look at for next season," Bettman said as the NHL's Board of Governors meeting wrapped up. "We'll see if we can make it happen."
This season's Winter Classic is Jan. 1 at Fenway Park in Boston between the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. What's not clear at this point is what day the second outdoor game would be held next season.
"There's been a lot of speculation," Bettman said. "And again, not all of this has been resolved. But I'm just laying it out. Do you do two games on New Year's Day, or do you do one on New Year's Day and one on [CBC's] 'Hockey Day In Canada?' "
Whatever the plan the NHL Player's Association would have to approve it.
"Hockey Day In Canada" on CBC features all six Canadian teams in a tripleheader, usually in February. A league source told ESPN.com that this is the leading option for the second outdoor game and that Calgary was the leading candidate to host it.
The Flames wanted to host an outdoor game this season, but those talks fizzled last summer as the league ran out of time to make it happen.
Having the second outdoor game at least a month apart would allow the league to use the same ice plant it owns. But Bettman didn't believe that was a big issue either way.
"While we like the rink and the truck is very nice and gets a lot of attention, we could buy another one or we could rent a second one," Bettman said.
The first regular-season outdoor game was held in Edmonton, known as the Heritage Classic, in November 2003 between the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens.
The NHL made it an annual event, with the Winter Classic making its debut Jan. 1, 2008, in Buffalo between the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Last New Year's Day, the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. The 2010-2011 outdoors game has not yet been chosen, but Yankee Stadium appears to be the leading contender.
Bettman laughed when asked which Canadian teams had expressed an interest in hosting the second outdoor game.
"I think all of them," he said. "We didn't ask for a document sworn to under oath, but in the course of conversations, I think every one of the Canadian clubs has said either, 'We want to host and be in it or at least be in it.' So I think all six have expressed interest."
"By the way, just about every U.S. club, even if they're in a warm climate, has said, 'We want to play in it.' It has become an event that our clubs are having the desire to participate in."
Pierre LeBrun is a hockey writer for ESPN.com.