Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty at the 2016 Winter Classic
Montreal is already set to reportedly square off against Ottawa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the NHL’s first game, but the Canadiens could also host an outdoor game of their own in late-November.
The Montreal Canadiens have long been rumored to be headed outdoors come the 2017-18 campaign as part of an outdoor game in Ottawa against the Senators to commemorate the first NHL game ever played back in December 1917. The meeting with the Senators might not be the only time the Canadiens head outdoors, however.
According to TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie, the NHL is considering playing the first outdoor game of the 2017-18 campaign in Montreal to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the league’s birth. The plan, then, would be for an outdoor game to be played in late-November, which would mark nearly 100 years to the day since the league was officially formed. In fact, if the plan is for the game to be a weekend outing, much like most outdoor games are, the contest could be realistically be played on the exact 100-year anniversary, Nov. 26, 2017, which is a Sunday.
If there is an outdoor game in Montreal, the most likely locale appears to be Molson Stadium, which is the home field of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. That said, there may need to be some temporary upgrades if Molson Stadium is the venue chosen by the league for the outdoor game.
Many of the past Canadian outdoor games, such as the Heritage Classic games in Vancouver, Winnipeg and the inaugural Heritage Classic in Edmonton, have been played at CFL stadiums, but every single one has a capacity that far exceeds Molson Stadium. For instance, BC Place had a capacity of more than 55,000, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton sat 57,000-plus and the smallest modern-era outdoor game to date saw Winnipeg’s Investors Group Field pack the stands with upwards of 33,000 fans. By comparison, Molson Stadium currently seats roughly 23,400.
If the league wants to pack the building further, though, one option would be to bring in expanded seating. Toronto’s BMO Field played host to the Centennial Classic on Jan. 1 and managed to seat more than 40,000 fans, but that was largely due to bringing in temporary stands. For its normal events, which include football and soccer, BMO Field generally doesn’t seat more than 30,000.
Expanded seating has already been part of the discussions when it comes to the outdoor game in Ottawa. The seating will be in place ahead of time, however, thanks to the CFL’s Grey Cup being played at TD Place in late-November 2017. In the case of a game at Molson Stadium, the seating would likely need to be brought in especially for the potential outdoor game.
If Montreal does host an outdoor game, and assuming plans go ahead for Ottawa to host one as well, it will mean each Canadian team will have had a hometown outdoor game. Ottawa and Montreal were the final two Canadian teams who hadn’t yet hosted an outdoor game. If both games in Canada are a go for next season, it will also mark the second-straight year in which two outdoor contests have been played in Canada.
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