Photograph by YVRPhoto
In the past we’ve considered the prospect of a Vancouver hosted outdoor game. All along we’d generally thought that a game in Vancouver featuring the Canucks and the Senators was the most likely prospect for a Cnaucks hosted outdoor game. Well, lo and behold, as Darren Dreger and TSN first reported on Tuesday evening, that will indeed come to pass on March 2nd of 2014. Though of course, it’s not quite final yet as, "there are some details left to be worked out here in terms of contracts signed…"
The event will be officially called the "Heritage Classic" and will be hosted at BC Place, which I guess counts loosely at "outdoors." It will be the sixth in a massive slate of outdoor games the NHL is planning for the 2013-14 season.
Let’s get into it further on the other side of the jump.
Obviously the Winter Classic has been a massive success for the NHL from a marketing and money making perspective, and the 2014 stadium series will surely be too. The league will sell multiple hundreds of thousands of tickets to the six games, and they might even manage to get the highlights from the contests featured on Sportscenter. The concern, however, will be whether or not having six outdoor games in a single season dilutes the special qualities of the Winter Classic…
I think it does. It’s not as if the Canucks will be featured on HBO’s 24/7 as a result of hosting the sixth outdoor game of the season. BC Place will probably look amazing when it’s outfitted for hockey, and I’m sure the event will make for a solid spectator experience, but it won’t feel all that novel what with six games immediately preceeding it (including a game between the Penguins and Blackhawks that will take place, quite literally, the day before the Vancouver hosted Heritage Classic.)
Harrison Mooney is similarly unimpressed. He sees the expansive slate of outdoor contests as a pure money grab:
The Winter Classic has always been a cash grab, a chance to snuggle with the sponsors, to sell 10 times as many tickets as usual, and to trot out some special event merchandise that will dance off the shelves like ‘N Sync dolls come to life. This much we know. But it was still possible to enjoy all the good things about the event despite this because, in the back of our minds, we also knew that it was possible for the league to make the event even more blatantly about separating fans from their money.
Say, for instance, if they did it six times a year.
Obviously the money is a big part of it, but I wonder if another powerful motivation for the league is making amends for the lockout. For example, Rangers owner James Dolan was the one owner who everyone knew absolutely hated the lockout. Now there’ll be two outdoor games featuring the Rangers played in New York. An outdoor game in Los Angeles, and the Blackhawks and Penguins at Soldier’s Field? I bet NBC, who weren’t too happy to have their fledgling sports network bereft of content this past fall, would like that. Also with six whole events, you can give loyal title sponsors a modest discount and still make a killing in advertising. Hell, even some fans might see it as an altruistic effort to apologize to them, even though that’s laughable.
Ultimately the maneuver strikes me as cheap and practical. Or in other words: a relatively smart move by the league, but one completely devoid of the sort of romance that we were hoping to associate with an outdoor NHL game hosted by the Canucks in Vancouver. That’s all said without even mentioning the fact that the quality of hockey in outdoor games is consistently subpar by usual NHL standards. Outdoor NHL hockey, frankly, hasn’t got my juices flowing since the Crosby shootout winner in Buffalo a half decade ago…
Anyway, professional hockey fans in Vancouver are going to be seriously overserved next season and in the best way possible. Between the reported Canucks hosted outdoor game, the likelihood of a Canucks owned and affiliated AHL club playing locally next season, and the fact that the Vancouver Canucks will probably be pretty good again a year from now: there’s going to be lots of hockey-related entertainment options for all sorts of consumers in Vancouver next year. I really can’t hate on that too much…