The 2016-17 season will be a busy one for The Center of the Hockey Universe™. With the World Cash Grab of Hockey™ and the World Junior Championship, there will be no shortage of high-level, best-on-best hockey in Toronto. The Centennial Classic outdoor game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings on New Year’s Day can’t promise a spectacle on that scale, but it does give the Leafs the big event they were seeking in their 100th season and the well-heeled fans in Toronto another place to put their money.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your wallets, because none of this is going to be cheap to see. The Centennial Classic will be the smallest of the outdoor games, largely because BMO Field can accommodate only 35,000 patrons, but that will undoubtedly be made up by sky-high ticket prices. When it comes to paying for big events and putting a ton of money into its hockey entertainment, Toronto has not even come close to reaching its saturation level. There will be no sticker shock. Nor will there be any fatigue, even with this game smack-dab in the middle of the WJC. People in Toronto eat this stuff up.
It’s official: the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers will be heading outdoors for the 2016 Heritage Classic.
At a press conference at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre Sunday afternoon, the outdoor contest was officially announced, as was an entire weekend’s worth of events. The Heritage Classic, which will take place Oct. 23, will be preceded by a Legends Game, which will be played Oct. 22 and feature some of the greatest players from the Oilers-Jets rivalry of the 1980s and 1990s.
“When we joined the NHL back in 2011, there was a lot to get done in a short period of time,” Mark Chipman, chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment, said. “We very much wanted to honor the history of the Jets back then, we were really more interested in doing so properly. As we began to think about how we could best do so, we realized that hosting a Heritage Classic and building a series of events around the game provided the most appropriate way to acknowledge the history of the Winnipeg Jets.” Read more
It took a little-known Swiss goaltender named Joren Van Pottleberghe to bring together the two principal characters of one of the most infamous incidents the game has ever seen.
It was shortly after the draft and the Detroit Red Wings had just selected Van Pottleberghe in the fourth round. Kris Draper, an executive with the Red Wings, was in the lobby in his hotel in South Florida and he was approached by Claude Lemieux, the agent for Van Pottleberghe. The two had a rather awkward conversation about Lemieux’s client for a couple of minutes and Lemieux went on his way.
“I wasn’t going to bring it up,” Draper said, “and he wasn’t going to bring it up. It was basically him as an agent and me as a Red Wings executive talking hockey.”
Over the past eight seasons, the NHL has held their outdoor games in MLB parks, NFL stadiums and on college football fields. But with three outdoor games this season and another four potentially in the works for 2016-17, the league could be looking for something to spice the outdoor game up and a unique venue could be in the works.
According to Spencer Callaghan, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday that the league has had officials come to the city to look at the feasibility of putting an outdoor game on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Watson said there’s the ability to put up 30,000 temporary seats on the ground.
It wouldn’t be a game lacking history, either, as Watson added that commissioner Gary Bettman is mindful of the significance of 2017 being the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game between the Canadiens and Senators. That game, the second of the season for both teams in the inaugural NHL campaign, was played on Dec. 30, 1916. For that reason, it would seem likely any outdoor game in Ottawa would pit the Senators against the Canadiens. Read more
It was pretty much a perfect day for the Minnesota Wild as they pasted the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1 on home ice in the Stadium Series game.
Yet, there was one incident that put a damper on the Sunday outdoor outing.
Right winger Jason Zucker had to be carted off the ice in the second period after being on the receiving end of a high hit from Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival. He didn’t return to the game, while Rozsival was issued a major penalty and game misconduct for interference. Read more
There are already a number of expected outdoor games for next season, but add one more to the list as the Toronto Maple Leafs appear to be getting heading outside for their centennial celebration after all.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Maple Leafs are expected to host an outdoor contest on Jan. 1, 2017, and the expected opponent is the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings and Maple Leafs have previously done battle in an outdoor game when Ann Arbor, Mich., played host to the Winter Classic. That game, the 2014 Winter Classic, set the all-time outdoor attendance record for the NHL with nearly 105,500 watching from the stands.
Previously there were reports that, should an outdoor game be played in Toronto, the game would be held at BMO Field, the home stadium of MLS’ Toronto FC. BMO Field seats between 30,000 and 34,000 fans. However, the venue could be expanded to include an additional 10,000 fans. Read more
Winnipeg has been long-rumored to be the next Canadian city in line for an outdoor contest, and Manitoba’s capital could be hosting a game as early as October 2016.
According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, the Jets will host an outdoor at Investors Group Field, the home of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, next season. While the announcement of the game hasn’t been made, Shannon also reported the potential opponent for the Jets would be the Edmonton Oilers.
That could mean the contest is given the Heritage Classic tag, but it would be the earliest in the season the Canadian-based outdoor game has happened. Previously, the Heritage Classic was held as early as Nov. 22, but that was all the way back in 2003 when the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens squared off at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in what was just the fourth outdoor game in NHL history. Read more
The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins could be taking their rivalry outdoors next season.
According to ESPN’s Scott Burnside, the Flyers and Penguins have been in discussions for an outdoor game in 2017, but there’s currently no decision on whether or not the potential game could be a Stadium Series outing or be next season’s Winter Classic. Read more