Forecast: Classic for Calgary

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

In an organization chock-full of Sutters, somebody must've consulted the Old Farmer's Almanac for the long-range forecast.

Then again, why bother?

As Calgary Flames alternate captain Craig Conroy pointed out, "If it's snowing in June, it can easily snow in January."

The possibility of a few inches of fluffy white stuff is about the only thing that can spoil the thought of the Flames playing host to an instalment of the NHL's Winter Classic at McMahon Stadium, something that's reportedly in the planning stages for the upcoming season.

If Mother Nature co-operates, there's no reason to think an outdoor hockey game at the same venue that will host the 2009 Grey Cup wouldn't be a smashing success.

It was electric in Edmonton. A blast in Buffalo. Well-received at Wrigley Field. Why not Calgary, a city that already boasts it's home to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth?

"It's hit or miss with the weather, that's my only concern," Conroy said. "When Edmonton did it, it looked cold and snowy. But when I watched the Chicago game, it didn't look too bad, so I think it'd be fun. I've done so many different things in my career, to be able to do that, it'd be something to be able to say 'Hey, I played in an outdoor game.'

"My thing is I worry about the weather. If the weather would hold out, I think it would be something great. I think it would be great for Calgary."

The NHL isn't expected to make anything official until mid-July, but there's mounting evidence the Flames are the favourites to host the second half of an outdoor twin-bill on New Year's Day, with the Boston Bruins taking the field -- er, ice -- at Fenway Park for the early game.

The Flames have long fancied the thought of playing outdoors in a regular-season spectacle, and the courtship seems to be mutual.

NHL ice specialist Dan Craig even made an appearance at a Stampeders practice yesterday morning, and it's unlikely the onetime Edmonton Oilers employee was scouting for the Eskimos.

Craig, armed with a digital camera, left McMahon Stadium without commenting on the possibility of a second outdoor game in Alberta, but the fact he showed up speaks volumes.

There's an old farming cliche urging to "make hay while the sun shines," and that pretty much sums up the argument for skipping Calgary to the front of the line of would-be Winter Classic cities.

McMahon Stadium will swell to a capacity of about 45,000 spectators for the Grey Cup, making room for about 9,000 extra spectators.

It'd be a shame if the temporary seats were only used for football.

Just thinking about the possibility of playing under open skies reminded Conroy of his upbringing on the outdoor rinks in upstate New York.

"I grew up playing outdoors, shovelling. You know you'd play for awhile and 'Oh, there's snow falling, I've gotta shovel it off,' " Conroy said. "I think, at this point in my career, I'm so used to seeing those nice, big, new arenas. I'm spoiled, so it'll be a back-to-reality check.

"But I think playing in front of that many fans, too -- that'd be by far the most fans I've ever played in front of -- so it'd definitely be fun."

Fun for everybody.

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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