SUN Hockey Pool

Outdoor games a forced tradition

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:35 PM ET

CALGARY -- So the word is the Calgary Flames will likely play host to an outdoor game in February 2011 as part of Hockey Day in Canada.

Sign the contracts and get planning a spectacle to play out ASAP.

That’s not a feeling out of sentimentality or some desire to relish the game’s roots.

Get it done and over with, because the concept of outdoor games is heading down the final stretch for uniqueness.

At risk of being the fun police on this issue, the NHL’s push for outdoor games has become something of a forced tradition, akin to watching the same old Christmas programs out of some sense of duty.

(Except for A Christmas Story. It’s still fun to see that movie.)

Sure, a game at McMahon Stadium against the Canucks or Maple Leafs would be a great spectacle, so long as we’re not in some ridiculous minus-40 deep freeze.

Plus, you know the Flames would come up with some fun things to add to the show, be it an alumni game and a Hitmen game to co-incide or something else.

But the problem with outdoor games is they’re becoming too much of a been-there, done-that proposition.

Edmonton did a wonderful job to start off the trend at the NHL level. The image of Montreal Canadiesn Jose Theodore wearing a toque atop his mask — complete with pom pom, perfect touch — is a lasting photo.

Having Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby score a shootout winner in Buffalo a couple of years ago, amidst a slight snowfall, was the NHL marketing department’s dream come true.

Even last year’s game between Chicago and Detroit at Wrigley Field was a thing of beauty, with the sweaters players wore a great tribute to the past.

However, this season’s game at Boston’s Fenway Park between the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers seem more of the same.

An outdoor game as part of the Hockey Day in Canada will give some uniqueness to the event.

But after that’s been done once north of the border, it will become somewhat contrived, too.

Hey, we know there will be people in Edmonton who will poo poo all over what Calgary does with a tone of “we did this before” so get it done and over with.

Do Calgarians want to listen to those kind of words from friends and family in another Canadian city like Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa, too?

Flaming C-notes

Having just watched the St. Louis Blues honour Brett Hull for his inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame, three years after retiring his No. 16, the Flames should get in high gear a number retirement for Theoren Fleury and then Al MacInnis. These ceremonies are becoming overdone in the league — Why the Toronto Maple Leafs paid tribute to the teams of the 1980s is still a mystery — but the Flames may as well officially retire Fleury’s No. 14 since nobody else has worn it during regular-season play since he was traded away more than a decade ago ... By the way, Adam Pardy wanted to switch to No. 2, but he didn’t feel right wearing the number of MacInnis, another maritimer ... It’s just co-incidence but it may be good news for the Flames they have only eight games on pay-per-view this season. Their record this season in those games is 0-3-2 ... The chuckle of the night in St. Louis came in the middle of Brett Hull’s speech when he paused and a fan yelled out “I hate Mike Keenan.” Hull laughed and the Blues fans cheered the sentiment. For his part, Hull told the Bellevill News-Democrat he and Keenan buried the hatchet. “I’m too old to hold grudges. We had a great talk (last summer). I always said this — I hated him as a coach but he’s a really good human being. We had a great talk.” As for Keenna’s abilities running the Blues, Hull said: “I’ll go to my grave saying he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. I never understood what he was doing and it showed in what happened.”

Hockey talky

A week ago, I said Los Angeles Kings second-year forward Wayne Simmonds is a player to grab if he’s available in any keeper pools. A few days later, Simmonds is out upwards of a couple of months due to knee surgery. Yes, I worry whether I jinxed him ... Whatever suspension Colorado’s David Koci gets for his hit from behind on Mike Green isn’t enough. What purpose Koci has in the NHL is a mystery, but for him to do something like that while his team is being whipped 5-0 is a disgrace ... Smug Canadians who say attendance south of the border issues don’t happen in Canada take notice the Ottawa Senators are down to about 10,000 season-ticket holders and reducing prices, plus sell tickets for the first two rounds of the playoffs over the next two years, if the Sens get that far, at regular-season prices ... Alex Tanguay wilted under the expectations of being a $5 million player in Calgary and had a horrible season in Montreal, but has now fallen to the point he’s a healthy scratch for Tampa Bay ... An interesting theory making the rounds of the internet: Broadcasting games on high-definition TV is actually keeping fans away from games. At first glance, it’s easy to say “no way” but when you consider the cost of tickets as opposed to a big-screen TV, surround sound and the Centre Ice package, it’s a valid point.

You don’t say

“It’s a cause of concern, because we’re playing similar to where we were down the stretch last year, where it doesn’t look like there’s that much energy or excitement. That’s got to be created by us internally. We need to turn that around.”

— Sharks defenceman Rob Blake on his team’s five-game stretch without a win.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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