Report: Heritage Classic could be postponed by conflict
The NHL is expected to use this weekend's All-Star Game to reveal the highlights of the 2015-16 season, including the World Cup, the Winter Classic and two Stadium Series games.
But one key event is in danger of being scratched from the calendar before it can be announced.
According to a report in the Winnipeg Free Press, the 2016 Heritage Classic is at risk because the NHL and the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers are at odds over scheduling.
The NHL wants to stage the Classic at Winnipeg's Investors Group Field in late December. That doesn't work for the Bombers because it comes too close to the Nov. 29 Grey Cup, raising the potential that the hockey game would “overshadow the football game and cannibalize both ticket sales and corporate sponsorship.”
The Bombers are pushing for a February date, but that brushes up against the 2016 NHL All-Star Game (Jan. 30-31 in Nashville) and possibly against other outdoor events tentatively scheduled for Minnesota and Colorado.
It's also a time of year when the temperature ranges from a high of 16 degrees to a low of -4, less than ideal for creating NHL-worthy ice.
It's hard to believe that an event that's been in discussion for several years—Jets chairman Mark Chipman said he was promised the game by the league back in 2013—could fall apart at this late date. Given the dollars involved, and the desire of the Jets to stage the game, it's likely there's a compromise to be reached.
The paper says Bombers CEO Wade Miller is pushing for a greater gap between the two games and wants the NHL to pick up costs, believed to be more than $500,000, associated with keeping the stadium operational through a Winnipeg winter.
In other words, the NHL can get the date it wants if it is willing to make a financial commitment that will lessen the burden on the Bombers/CFL.
Given the friendly relationship that exists between the two Winnipeg teams, this bit of brinksmanship seems like a risky ploy. But in the interest of good business, it's a good bet the two sides will find common ground.
Whether they'll find it in time for an announcement this weekend? That remains to be seen.
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