Official Details on Heritage Classic

NEW YORK (August 4, 2010) – Representatives from the National Hockey League, the National Hockey League Players’ Association, the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens met today at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium in advance of the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic™, the regular-season outdoor game to be played Sunday, February 20, 2011. The League, the Flames and the Canadiens today also unveiled the game-day jerseys specially designed for each team for the event.

The 2011 NHL Heritage Classic marks the first regular-season NHL game contested outdoors in Canada since the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium on November 22, 2003. CBC and RDS will carry the game in Canada and VERSUS will telecast the outdoor match in the United States. NHL Radio™ will have the live action across North American radio. NHL Network™ will provide pre- and post-game programming, and NHL.com will provide extensive digital coverage.

“The Flames and Canadiens, two teams with so much history, will resume a rivalry that is so much a part of the National Hockey League’s proud heritage. Our first regular-season outdoor game was played in Canada, and we’re excited to be coming back for the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium Feb. 20,” said Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League.

The Flames and Canadiens are the only clubs to have contested an all-Canadian Stanley Cup Final in the 40-plus years of the NHL’s expansion era (since 1968), doing so twice in a four-season span. The Canadiens captured their 23rd Stanley Cup by defeating the Flames in five games in 1985-86 and the Flames won their first and only Stanley Cup in a six-game triumph over the Canadiens in 1988-89. Professional hockey was firmly established in Calgary in 1921 when the Calgary Tigers helped form the Western Canada Hockey League becoming the first major professional team in Calgary. The Tigers competed a total of eleven seasons in four leagues, winning four championships during their existence.

Both clubs boast a strong cross-country following and own long home sellout streaks. The Canadiens have drawn capacity crowds at Bell Centre for each of their past 248 regular-season and playoff games since January 2004, while the Flames have posted 230 consecutive sellouts at Pengrowth Saddledome since April 2004. These two teams will have one match-up prior to the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic when the Canadiens host the Flames on January 17th.

“The Calgary Flames are honoured to be hosting the Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium. Calgary and Montreal have a storied past having faced each other in two Stanley Cup finals and we are pleased to be able to restore that rivalry on this grand stage with an outdoor game,” said Ken King, President and CEO Calgary Flames. “The Flames organization, the city of Calgary and Flames fans everywhere are very excited about this very special event highlighted by the opportunity to see NHL action in a classic winter setting.”

“The entire Montreal Canadiens organization is thrilled to be part of this exciting event. We look forward to this celebration of hockey on Canadian soil and welcome the opportunity to revive our longtime rivalry with the Calgary Flames,” said Pierre Boivin, President of the Montreal Canadiens. “We had the privilege of playing in the first Heritage Classic, back in 2003, and we are pleased and honoured to have been invited for this outdoor showdown at McMahon Stadium.”

“An NHL game between two Canadian teams on an outdoor rink in Calgary is a unique way to celebrate the special place that hockey holds in Canadian culture,” said Mike Ouellet, NHLPA Chief of Business Affairs. “Taking the ice for the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic is something that players on the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens will undoubtedly cherish as a career highlight.”

“CBC is extremely proud to broadcast the NHL Heritage Classic,” said Scott Moore, Executive Director, CBC Sports and General Manager of Media Sales and Marketing. “CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada was there when Edmonton hosted the first Heritage Classic in 2003, and we’re excited to be headed to Calgary this time around. It promises to be a memorable evening for fans of the Flames, the Canadiens and Canadian hockey fans across the country.”

“The Winter Classic has become a highly anticipated annual event and we’re excited to be able to televise the NHL’s first outdoor game on cable with the Heritage Classic,” said Jamie Davis, President of VERSUS. “Each season we try to find different ways to deepen our NHL coverage. Last year we added several games following the Olympic break and extended coverage throughout the playoffs, leading to record postseason viewership. Broadcasting the Heritage Classic is another example of how we work very closely with the NHL to further super-serve hockey fans.”

“RDS was proud to provide thousands of hockey fans with the opportunity to witness this historic event back in 2003, broadcasting the first NHL regular season outdoor game, as the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium,” said Domenic Vanelli, Vice President of Production at RDS. “The entire RDS broadcast team has fond memories of this outstanding event and we look forward to, once again, bring all the excitement of the Heritage Classic featuring the Flames and Canadiens from McMahon Stadium to our viewers.”

The Flames will wear a fusion design jersey honoring the history of professional hockey in Calgary for the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium on February 20, 2011 versus the Montreal Canadiens.

The Flames worked with the design team at Reebok to create the vintage look. The jersey features the same jersey striping pattern with a beige Flames C logo in a vintage felt application. The uniform is a deeper red color with gold stripes and will include the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic logo patch on the front.

Montreal will wear their current away (white) jersey which will also contain the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic patch on the front, right chest. Modifications to the player numbers on the jersey will reflect the numbering color combinations worn on their white jerseys throughout their history, specifically how the numbers appeared during both the 1986 and 1989 Stanley Cup Final series against the Calgary Flames.

2011 NHL Heritage Classic jerseys for both Calgary and Montreal will be available for pre-orders now through Shop.NHL.com, calgaryflames.com and montrealcanadiens.com.

The NHL Heritage Classic jerseys were designed by Reebok, the Official Outfitter of the NHL®, who collaborated with both teams to create two jerseys that are unique and true to the histories and traditions of the clubs.

Additional information surrounding the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic, including ticketing information, will be announced in the coming months. Fans can register online at http://www.nhl.com to receive alerts and ticket information on the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic, as well as other NHL news, events and offers. The NHL will again work with the host team, the Flames, to set aside tickets specifically for use by local youth hockey organizations.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins will battle Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on New Year’s Day in a regular-season game at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, at 1 p.m. ET. The 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® will mark the fourth consecutive season the NHL has played a regular-season outdoor game on New Year’s Day. The Buffalo Sabres hosted the Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on New Year’s Day 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field on New Year’s Day 2009 and the Boston Bruins hosted the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day 2010.

The Good and Bad of Summer on the NHL Network

I go back to school in less than four weeks.  That means, essentially, that the summer is over.  NHL Network has been given the responsibility of keeping the hockey fan’s appetite whetted since the season ended in early June.  A quick rundown of some stuff we liked and didn’t like.

Good

Free Agent Frenzy/Draft Coverage: While the NHL Draft gets it’s due with a first round airing on VERSUS every year (albeit simulcasting TSN’s stuff) the NHL’s UFA period is woefully uncovered on TV.  I love the VERSUS folks, but the fact that the network can’t assemble anything for both trade deadline day and the opening of the NHL’s free agent period is awful and inexcusable.

In it’s absence, the NHL Network was a haven for those events.  Rounds 2-7 of the Entry Draft were aptly covered by NHL Net, managing to stay entertaining for that long is hard to due, but they did a solid job, and it’s the closest we may ever see to an American-produced draft show.

As for the Free Agent Frenzy, viewers got a good mix.  The NHL Network’s decision to go with NHL Live from 12-2PM could’ve been controversial, but EJ Hradek is as connected an insider as you’ll find.  That two hours left no NHL fan feeling out of the mix.  Combine that with the three hours of TSN coverage, and it was icing on the cake for every NHL fan desperately searching for the time and devotion to the most important day of the off-season that VERSUS just can’t give.

Raising the Cup: I hate classic games, but simply put, this series has been great.  Seeing the Stanley Cup being handed out never gets old.  Showing the entire broadcast of the clinching game of every Final is a terrific and oddly fascinating watch.

Press Conferences: The Winter Classic ones in particular.  It is good to have some sort of TV presence at these cute little events.  The McMahon Stadium announcement today should be just as cool.

Bad

Lack of Studio Programming: Not every summer is going to be like this one.  There will not be a case where the NHL’s best free agent in history signs a massive, front-loaded, totally unethical contract with a team never before known for such things every year.  There will also not be a case where the league rejects said contract and we end up dragging along in a massive, public battle over the player, leading to a hearing that just started today, and a decision that may not come as late as Monday.

That said, the NHL Network could’ve had nearly a month of material.  If NHL.com is going to be as bold in reporting the contract and all the hooplah before it was rejected, so should NHL Net.  There should’ve been breaking news updates from On the Fly every step of the way, if not full shows.  I’d rather see On the Fly: Live from the Kovy hearings than On the Fly: Live from Shanny Summit II.  I understand that it is an extremely touchy subject, but I feel kind of stupid watching Top 10 offensive performances of the 2001 playoffs when I coud be hearing actual news.

NHL Live Off the Air

Once again, I know that there will maybe never be a summer like the NHL has had ever again.  That said, you can always find a couple hours of inane chatter and NHL celebrity guests for NHL Live.  Even if you paired down the show to one hour a day, or four days a week, or even once a week, the NHL Network needs some sort of flagship show to let you know that something’s still going on 365 days a year.

Again, the prevailing theory here is that, if NHL.com can find ways to cover the game all summer, then why not NHL Network?  Bill Daly told us on Monday that it’s something the NHL is looking at going towards, so I hope we see the fruits of that in 2011.

The Suitor Tutor, Part 1: On VERSUS and NBC, How Have They Done, and Where the Merger Will Take Them

With the NHL nearing a new TV contact, a multi-part series, “The Suitor Tutor”, takes a look at the potential bidders for NHL hockey.

The Suitor: NBC and VERSUS, incumbent rights holders to the National Hockey League on over-the-air television and cable, respectively.

The Numbers: VERSUS has paid upwards of $70 million per season to air the league, and is owned by Comcast, one of the richest cable giants on earth, able to afford almost anything.  That includes the networks of NBC Universal, which they’re in the process of merging with.

The Ratings:

NBC
Regular Season
2006:
1.0
2007: 1.0
*2008: 1.0
2009: 1.0
2010: 0.9

*- In 2008, NBC began airing a single Game of the Week instead of regional coverage.

Stanley Cup Final

2006: 2.3
2007: 1.6
2008: 3.1
2009: 3.1
2010: 3.4

VERSUS

Regular Season
2005-06:
0.2
2006-07: 0.2
2007-08: 0.3
2008-09: 0.3
2009-10: 0.3

All-Star Game
2007:
0.7
2008: 0.8
2009: 0.8

Stanley Cup Final
2006:
0.9
2007: 0.7
2008: 1.3
2009: 1.8
2010: 1.9

(Source: Andrew’s Dallas Stars Page)

Read more of this post