Flames push for outdoor game

STEVE MACFARLANE, CQMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:04 PM ET

Mother Nature better play nice next February as the Calgary Flames get set to host a second outdoor game for the 2010-11 NHL season.

Sources say commissioner Gary Bettman will confirm Friday — when he addresses the media before the Stanley Cup final kicks off — that the event will take place at McMahon Stadium next season.

It’s unsure whether he’ll announce the date, which is currently slated for Feb. 20, 2011. The opponent will be the Montreal Canadiens and former Flames forward Michael Cammalleri.

In case the weather doesn’t co-operate, there’s a contingency plan in place to play the game the next day.

Both the league and the Flames refused comment Thursday, but the team has not been hiding its interest in hosting an outdoor game and was visited by NHL ice guru Dan Craig last June.

Season-ticket holders in Calgary have also been charged for an unannounced special event when renewing for next season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to host the Washington Capitals on New Year’s Day in the annual Winter Classic.

As the Flames’ opponent in the second outdoor game of the season, the Canadiens will suit up for their second such event in Alberta. The Habs played in the inaugural the Heritage Classic against the Edmonton Oilers at Commonwealth Stadium in November 2003. It was the first NHL game contested on outdoor ice.

McMahon Stadium manager John Haverstock is unsure exactly what Bettman is going to say Friday, but all parties involved have been in discussion since last summer.

Hosting the 2009 Grey Cup (which was not Haverstock’s first) has helped provide a glimpse into the sizable undertaking of hosting a Winter Classic.

“It’s a lot of work,” Haverstock said with a laugh. “Having gone through the Grey Cup last year, it’s fresh in our minds, and it would be not unlike that in the scope of it. It’s a pretty big event.”

The weather is the biggest question mark. Calgarians know how unpredictable it is at the best of times. A chinook could make the ice sloppy and unplayable. A blizzard could make vision impossible.

“Of course, the risk factor is the time of year — although we’ve had a lot of November football games here and have had our fair share of winter weather to deal with,” said Haverstock. “It does pose a bit of an extra challenge in the middle of winter, running a major event.

“Our facility is winterized to a degree, but is intended for non-winter use. It kind of adds an extra element to the whole thing.”


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