One confirmed piece of information coming out from Monday's first day is that the Winnipeg Jets will host the Heritage Classic, likely in 2016. Jets chairman Mark Chipman confirmed to Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press that the NHL told him the team will host a future outdoor game, it's just a matter of hammering out a date. The team prefer the winter of 2016 to mark the fifth anniversary of hockey returning to Winnipeg.
"For us, it will be our fifth year and there's something about commemorating our fifth year back in the NHL that I like and it gives us a little bit more time to get our feet underneath us in terms of operating a team. I wouldn't want to go out any further than that. We'll be ready by then and the stadium is very capable of handling it," said Chipman.
The game would be played at Investors Group Field, which houses the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Key to this deal, as Lawless reports, is that the Blue Bombers are trying to host the Grey Cup in November 2015. If that happens, this would allow the NHL to expand the seating capacity by 8,000 seats, bringing it to around 41,000, according to the CFL team's CEO.
On the topic of outdoor games, the Stadium Series game between the Ducks and Kings at Dodgers Stadium will certainly be a test for the NHL to see if the idea could be successful in other warm weather markets. One of those markets has already expressed interest to the league about hosting.
Appearing on the FAN590's Hockey Central on Tuesday, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the new owners of the Phoenix Coyotes have expressed interest in playing host to an outdoor game next season.
While no one from the Coyotes' side was confirming things to either Craig Morgan of FSN Arizona or Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, the plan would be similar to that of the Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium this season. The Coyotes would host the game during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, which will be played in Glendale in 2015. Chase Field, home of baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, would be the likely venue. The retractable roof would help in battling any sort of weather conditions.
Daly also said that the NHL is not committed to holding such a large of slate of outdoor games after this season. The Winter Classic will always be on the schedule, but games not on New Year's Day, not the focus of HBO, NBC and the league's marketing arms will likely vary in number going forward.
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