Thursday June 25th, 2009

Because the Montreal Canadiens apparently haven't thanked fans profusely enough for their centennial season -- four games and out in the 2009 playoffs was barely what an earlier generation would have called a bread-and-butter note -- the 100th birthday party apparently will continue with an "indoor/outdoor" game in late November at Olympic Stadium.

The stadium game at the problematic Big O should be announced within the next two weeks once an opponent and scheduling issues are addressed.

If you were going to bet on an opponent, try the Ottawa Senators.

At the competition committee meeting ON Thursday in Montreal prior to this weekend's entry draft, the NHL pulled the proposed Winter Classic doubleheader game on New Year's Day in Calgary off the table --- NBC had expressed concern that it would diminish the impact of the Boston-Philadelphia match in Fenway Park -- and instead subbed in a match close to the date the Canadiens played the first game in franchise history: Dec. 4.

Montreal GM Bob Gainey, a member of the committee, positioned the stadium game as a celebration for fans rather than a cash grab, which would mean reasonably-priced tickets in a venue that, other than the occasional football game, soccer match and some trade shows, has been fallow since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C.

While the fan-friendly sentiment is surely noble for a team that picked every wallet clean during a 2008-09 season that fell far short of giddy expectations, there is little doubt that it will be a boon to the bottom line. The Bell Centre seats 21,273. Olympic Stadium held close to 60,000 for baseball. With seating on the field, the Canadiens could basically triple their usual attendance.

The NHL is also looking for a way to take more advantage of the anticipated bump in hockey interest coming off the Olympics in Vancouver next February. While yet another outdoor game was discussed -- yawn -- it is more likely the Pittsburgh Penguins (read Sidney Crosby) and Washington Capitals (read Alexander Ovechkin) will play on Saturday, six days after the gold-medal game, in a match that will be embroidered with some sort of folderol, perhaps a concert.

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