SUN Hockey Pool

Strike while it's hot

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

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 in terms of 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 or perhaps a Hitmen game to coincide or something else.

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

The Oilers did a wonderful job to start off the trend at the NHL level. The image of Habs goalie Jose Theodore wearing a tuque 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 Flyers seems like 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 coincidence, 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 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 Keenan's abilities running the Blues, Hull said: "I'll go to my grave saying he didn't have a clue what he was doing."

Hockey talky

A week ago, I said 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 a couple of months due to knee surgery. Yes, I worry 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 isn't an issue up north, take notice the Ottawa Senators are down to about 10,000 season-ticket holders and reducing prices, plus selling 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. Now, he's a healthy scratch for Tampa Bay.

You don't say?

"It's a cause for 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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FARM REPORT

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN ABBOTSFORD

Funny how the Abbotsford Heat can mirror the Flames.

The Heat are struggling to win of late and not scoring enough goals, and head coach Jim Playfair said it's a case of his top players not stepping up, especially on the powerplay -- which is in an 0-for-16 stretch.

"They've got to get a lot hungrier and more competitive in order to score goals, and you can't score goals from the perimeter on the powerplay," Playfair told the Abbotsford News. "You've got to break it down and get pucks to the net. It's not about the fancy plays. It's about competing hard on the puck."

Jamie Lundmark has gone four games without a point, Kris Chucko has no points in seven games and Mikael Backlund has just one assist in seven outings.

The biggest positive of late is the play of goalie Matt Keetley, who has won three of his last four starts while posting a 1.25 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage.


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