Jets poised to host outdoor game in 2016

The 2003 Heritage Classic, the NHL's first-ever outdoor game. (QMI Agency files)

The 2003 Heritage Classic, the NHL's first-ever outdoor game. (QMI Agency files)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:55 PM ET

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. - There doesn’t seem to be any loss of appetite when it comes to outdoor games and the NHL.

With six outdoor games on tap for this season and speculation the NHL could be killing the golden goose, the Winnipeg Jets appear poised to host a game in 2016 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their return to the NHL.

The Phoenix Coyotes have made it be known they’d like to host an outdoor game around the Super Bowl in February 2015, and both the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens are open to the idea of an outdoor game in their cities.

While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said an outdoor game in Winnipeg was far from a done deal, it sounds like Winnipeg will become the fourth Canadian city to host an NHL game outside after Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, which will host the Heritage Classic in March.

“It seems to have taken on a life of its own. We had a discussion with (Jets chairman and governor) Mark Chipman where we said we would like to have an outdoor game in Winnipeg, Heritage Classic, and Mark said, ‘that’s great,’" Bettman explained.

“We said we’re not ready to make any announcements and what is your preference on dates? He gave us a preference of ’16. There’s no formal agreement, announcement or anything else. It’s still a work in progress, but at some point in the next few years, perhaps ’16, perhaps not, we’ll have an outdoor game in Winnipeg.”

“I think it’s a very exciting proposition, certainly,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff added. “A lot of work probably needs to get done on it. It’s all very preliminary.”

The Jets could host their game in conjunction with the Grey Cup and take advantage of an expanded Investors Group Field.

“I think we have a good relationship with (the city). We co-manage a lot of events that are at the facility (MTS Centre), concerts, different things like that,” Cheveldayoff said. “One thing about the city of Winnipeg: When they do get a chance to do something, they do it up very well.”

Coyotes president Anthony LeBlanc confirmed the club's interest in hosting an outdoor game. The location would probably be Chase Field, the home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Ottawa Senators, meanwhile, would like to host an outdoor game at the new Lansdowne Park in 2017, which opens next summer as the home to the CFL’s Ottawa RedBlacks. That year marks the Senators’ 25th in the NHL, the league’s 100th anniversary and Canada’s 150th birthday. Senators president Cyril Leeder said Tuesday the idea is out there, but no progress has been made.

Montreal Canadiens owner, president and CEO Geoff Molson told QMI Agency the franchise wasn’t actively pursuing an outdoor game, but if approached by the league would be interested.

The challenge in Montreal is a venue. Percival Molson Stadium, the only open-air venue, has a capacity of 25,000 -- not much more than the Bell Centre’s 21,273.

An option would be constructing a temporary facility to host a game. Evenko, Molson’s concert-production company, has some experience with that.

“We built an 80,000-seat stadium for U2 a couple of years ago,” Molson said.


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