CHICAGO--Please, a game. Something to talk about other than platitude after platitude about this player or that one. Some meat for the meal, please.
The news from today, of course, is that Calgary will host an outdoor game next February as the NHL continues to push the strategy of investing more and more in large event marketing, rather than using individual players to sell the game. Given that the Winter Classic TV ratings or the Fenway Park game were sharply down last year, it's an interesting decision.
Then again, selling an outdoor game in Calgary is easy. Selling pretty much anything to do with hockey in Canada is easy these days. They'll sell the game out and the hype will be in overdrive for all the Canadian television networks. Having the game in February keeps it distant from the world junior hockey championships, which dominates Canadian hockey interest around the Christmas break.
What it allows, naturally, is for NBC to keep its unofficial policy of U.S. teams only for the Winter Classic, with the tacit agreement of the NHL.
So far we've had Buffalo and Pittsburgh in Buffalo, Chicago hosted the Wings and Hawks, Fenway was home to the terribly boring Boston-Philly game and next year Heinz Field in Pittsburgh will hold with the game featuring the Penguins and Capitals. That, of course, will right the wrong of last year when the Caps thought - as did most of the hockey industry - the Ovechkin and the Caps were going to be part of the Fenway game before the NHL got cute and substituted the Flyers.
With this new two-game, two country outdoor approach, NBC can keep the Canadian teams off its airwaves and the Canadian teams can be kept from bitching about it too much.