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Thursday, June 25, 2009
Why NHL Players' Association is more open to second outdoor game


After speaking with NHL Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly and Lightning center/competition committee member Jeff Halpern, I expect the competition committee to green light the league's plan for a second outdoor game -- the backend of a New Year's Day 2010 Winter Classic doubleheader -- hosted by the Flames (likely against the Leafs) at Calgary's McMahon Stadium as we reported last Thursday.

Both Kelly and Halpern thought the league's outdoor plan, which was discussed in both smaller and full group discussions at the NHLPA meetings last weekend in Las Vegas, was favored by an enthusiastic majority of the players.

"I don't think there'd be an issue with it from the players' side," said Halpern, who'll participate in the competition committee meeting today in Montreal. "There was a lot of positive feedback. I think it's a good idea."

Last week, prior to the PA meetings, when asked about the possibility of a Winter Classic doubleheader by our colleague Scott Burnside, Kelly said the competition committee had held a dim view of a second outdoor game and voted down the idea when they met last summer. However, after receiving more complete details about the new plan, Kelly senses there has been a change of view among his constituents.

While the plan must gain official approval from all parties and there are logistical issues to be worked out, the league is moving forward. Last Friday, according to several published reports, NHL ice guru Dan Craig was in Calgary taking measurements of the playing surface at McMahon Stadium, which will host the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup on Nov. 29. There will be temporary seating installed to boost the capacity for the CFL championship game. The league's plan calls for that seating to be left in place for the New Year's Day tilt.

The first game of the proposed outdoor doubleheader (still not officially announced by the league) now figures to be a match between the Flyers and Bruins at Fenway Park. In recent weeks, Alex Ovechkin's Capitals were rumored to be the Bruins' Fenway foe. But according to several league sources, NBC favored the Flyers because they play in the fourth-largest TV market (the Washington D.C. area is the ninth-largest market).

Also, the league and the network have an eye toward New Year's Day 2011, when they'd like to match the Caps against the Rangers at the new Yankee Stadium. Of course, there will be a lot of water frozen between now and then.