Icy future for Rogers Centre?

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Was the bone-chilling practice held by the Maple Leafs at a wind-swept east end park yesterday just a frosty dress rehearsal for a more elaborate event?

It very well could be, given the fact the organization has approached the Rogers Centre about potentially playing host to an outdoor game, following in the frigid footsteps of the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton and the Ice Bowl between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres at snowy Ralph Wilson Stadium last month.

While the process is still in the exploratory stage, Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment Ltd. informed the NHL last week that it was intrigued at the possibility of putting on such a hockey extravaganza.

"Yes I have heard from the Maple Leafs that they have an interest in hosting an outdoor game at some point in time," NHL vice-president Bill Daly confirmed via e-mail.

"Obviously we believe Toronto is a very strong candidate to host one of these games at some point in time."

The Maple Leafs previously has examined the possibility playing host to such a game at BMO Field, the home of Major League Soccer's Toronto FC. But Richard Peddie, president of MLSEL, said the organization would take a financial bath if the contest were to be held there.

"We know it doesn't work at BMO Field," Peddie said yesterday. "It only holds 20,000 people and that's not enough. I know people always point out how much money (MLSEL) brings in, but that doesn't mean we are just going to throw money away."

MANY HURDLES

With the ability to hold 50,000 people for a hockey game, the Rogers Centre is a more logical option from a financial point of view, at least in terms of attendance revenues.

"We're looking at the rough costs right now," Peddie said. "That's just one of a number of hurdles we must jump over before we can move forward.

"One of the conditions we are looking at, is that the roof must be open for such an event. That's what we want. But is that possible in the winter? That's being examined.

"Another condition is, if it starts snowing, the roof must stay open. After all, this is hockey, a sport synonymous with snow and ice. You have to make a statement with an event like this. The elements are part of what makes it special. And remember, the Rogers Centre is a facility that is basically designed to hold indoor events (in the winter)."

The pipes and the roof seem to be the biggest issues, ones that have been discussed by MLSEL chief operating officer Tom Anselmi and Rogers Centre president Paul Godfrey.

"I have people examining the temperatures the pipes in the building can withstand," Godfrey said, noting the interior of the stadium is not accustomed to being exposed to winter elements.

Opening the lid during the winter months is also a concern for a number of reasons including the potential ice buildup on the roof. Godfrey said Siemens, the engineering outfit that originally built the Rogers Centre roof, has been contacted in order to determine if such potential problems could be overcome.

"From a practical standpoint, holding it on Nov. 1 or late March likely would be more realistic than on Jan. 1 like the game in Buffalo was," Godfrey said, adding that "we look forward to working with the Leafs in examining the viability of such an undertaking."


Videos

Photos