Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The NHL finally got down to the business of
confirming that the 2014 NHL Heritage Classic - part of their Stadium Series
of outdoor games in the 2013-14 - will be taking at BC Place in Vancouver
featuring the hometown Canucks and the Ottawa Senators.
It was an announcement that, while coming as no surprise considering it had
been all-but-confirmed by media members north of the border, came with
surprisingly little fanfare.
Typically when the NHL has an announcement for a major event there is a
traveling carnival complete with photo opportunities, special guests and
jersey unveilings that go along with it.
That was the case for both the previous Heritage Classic events that were held
in Edmonton in 2003 and Calgary in 2011 but was noticeably absent when it came
to the official announcement for the Vancouver event in 2014.
Instead, the announcement of the game was reduced to a simple press release
from the league office.
This leads one to wonder whether or not the entire concept of the Heritage
Classic might have run its course.
Granted, in an upcoming season where the league is planning to hold six
outdoor games at five different venues, it might not much sense for the league
to make a big fuss over every single one of the planned outdoor contests
But that being said, there should have been a distinction between the Heritage
Classic and the rest of the other outdoor games that are part of this series,
save for the Winter Classic which is clearly the NHLs most valuable property
and their signature event.
When the NHL resurrected the Heritage Classic in 2011, it was viewed by many
as throwing a bone to the Canadian audience in light of the success of the
annual Winter Classic and at a time when it appeared that the chances of a
Canadian team ever appearing in the Winter Classic would be slim to nil.
But even though the Heritage Classic was still viewed as a "B-event" compared
to the Winter Classic, there was still a sense that it had some value because
not only was it just one of two outdoor events that the NHL would throw its
resources behind, it was designed to be uniquely Canadian and it found a way
to pay homage to the history of the game in Canada by bringing back some of
the game's past greats to share in the experience.
As a result, it was treated as an event entirely on its own in 2011 when it
was played at Calgarys McMahon Stadium.
But the NHL's lack of pomp and circumstance for the 2014 event seems to
suggest that the Heritage Classic is little more than just another outdoor
game but with a separate name.
At the same time, looking toward the future, you have to wonder just how long
the idea of keeping one outdoor game exclusively between Canadian clubs will
continue to be a marketing point.
There are already those suggesting the 2014 game between the Canucks and
Senators - two non-traditional rivals - is grasping at straws when it comes to
the aspect of drawing on history.
The event will see both teams pay homage to the highly successful franchises
that existed in their respective cities during the early part of the 20th
century - the Vancouver Millionaires (later Maroons) of the Pacific Coast
Hockey Association and the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey Association
- teams which happened to cross paths to battle for the Stanley Cup in 1915,
1921 and 1923.
The Canucks have owned the Millionaires trademark since 2010 and, this past
season, paid tribute to the 1915 Stanley Cup champions by donning their
uniforms in a game against the Red Wings.
As nostalgic as it would be to hark back to that era for fans of both the
Canucks and Senators, you'd have to wonder if Vancouver fans might be more
open to the idea of an outdoor game against a team like the Chicago Blackhawks
or the Boston Bruins, teams that they have had a much more recent rivalry
Hosting a game against a more contemporary rival as opposed to a historic one
is probably at the top of the wish list for any Canadian team - save for
perhaps the Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs - that is interested in
hosting a future outdoor game especially if that translates into stronger
The fact that fans in Vancouver, and in all the cities that will be hosting an
outdoor game this upcoming season, will undoubtedly be flocking for tickets
and willing to shell out their hard-earned money to soak up the entire
experience demonstrates that the outdoor game concept itself is still a big
But as far as the Heritage Classic concept itself, it might just be time to
finally put that to rest.
The Sports Network