SUN Hockey Pool

Winter Classic headed for Calgary?

Randy Sportak, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:55 PM ET

Sun sources have confirmed the NHL and Calgary Flames have put the wheels in motion to host a New Year’s Day Winter Classic game at McMahon Stadium this coming season.

National Hockey League officials have visited the home of the Stampeders in anticipation of holding a game there, but have not yet put a contract in place with the McMahon Stadium Society to hold an outdoor game Jan. 1, 2010.

Flames president Ken King last night wouldn’t confirm a report from ESPN The Magazine that the league is planning for a Winter Classic game in Calgary.

“I’ve heard some rumblings and I think it would be a great idea, but I can’t confirm that,” King said.

“If that idea comes to fruition, I think it would be wonderful. Everybody we hear from in our audience seems to think it would be a wonderful idea as well.”

King has said on several occasions in the past the Flames would be interested in hosting an outdoor game.

He has added the importance of making the event particularly unique to Calgary.

“We’ve worked on some creative and unique ideas, yeah,” he said yesterday.

The NHL will announce its plans for the next Winter Classic in mid-July, said a league official.

According to sources, the proposal is to hold an outdoor double-header.

Boston is believed to be holding one game at Fenway Park — with Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals believed to be the team that will face the Bruins.

Calgary’s game would be the second half, with an all-Canadian matchup the likely scenario. The Flames have hosted Edmonton on New Year’s Eve the past several seasons, however a game against Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal would mean a bigger media market.

The Edmonton Oilers played host to the Montreal Canadiens in November 2003 in a wildly successful venture that has more outdoor regular season games.

With that in mind, it makes for the idea of the Vancouver Canucks or Toronto Maple Leafs a more likely opponent.

Because of the NHL’s inclusion with the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, there will be no all-star game, so a second outdoor game would give the league some of that lost profile.

McMahon Stadium holds more than 35,600 for football games, but with the Grey Cup game scheduled for Nov. 29, extra bleachers will have seating for more than 45,000.

After the success of the Edmonton game held at Commonwealth Stadium, the league has begun to make it a tradition.

The Buffalo Sabres played host to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008, and this past season the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings played at Wrigley Field.

Both games in the U.S. had very strong television ratings.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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