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Posted On Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 6:03 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Heritage Classic a hit with sponsors

CALGARY -- It appears that the Heritage Classic is a hit -- even before the game is played.

NHL Executive Vice President of Marketing Brian Jennings said Thursday the sponsorship revenue for the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic has exceeded the sponsorship revenue for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Jennings didn't reveal the dollar figures, but said the excitement shown by Canadian sponsors such as Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire for an outdoor game in Canada has made the difference.

"We were probably long overdue to get back on Canadian soil," Jennings said. "I think our corporate partners recognize the power of the brands. For us, we were overwhelmed at the support from the sponsorship perspective. There's a lot of ways we measure success from this, and certainly revenues are a part of it."

About 22,000 Heritage Classic jerseys of both the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens have been sold thus far, Jennings said. Sales have favored the host team so far, with about 16,000 Flames jerseys having already flown off the shelves.

But a major concern for Jennings is the sale of counterfeit jerseys. He said not only are fans purchasing an inferior product, but they could also be helping people engage in illegal activities.

"I think we've seen a heightened increase of counterfeiting," Jennings said. "I think there's a lot of things that fans can do. Some of the dollars that get generated from counterfeit jerseys find their way back to terrorist-type activities. It's a big business, and not just from a hockey perspective but hockey in general. It's intellectual property, which is (a) main part of our collateral. It's a key element for us to protect, and we are quite vigilant in the marketplace for doing so."

Jennings also announced the NHL, the Calgary Flames and Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine and his Companions in Courage charity has plans to donate a state-of-the-art "NHL Legacy Classroom" at Alberta Children's Hospital. The classroom is expected to be operational by April 2011.

The classroom will feature Cisco System's online conferencing system WebEx, which allows young patients to connect to family, friends, schools and teachers anywhere in the world during a hospital stay.

"The Alberta Children's Hospital is a Southern Alberta jewel providing unparalleled care for all young people in need of its services," said Flames President & CEO Ken King. "The Calgary Flames organization is proud to partner with the NHL in the creation of this unique legacy."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 4:30 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Heritage Classic merchandise available Thursday

Fans will be able to purchase Heritage Classic merchandise at Spectator Plaza outside McMahon Stadium starting Thursday.

The Official NHL Heritage Classic Merchandise Store will carry jerseys, headwear, souvenirs, gifts and novelty items and apparel, including women’s and children’s wear throughout the weekend. The retail location will be open to the public from noon-7 p.m. on Feb. 17; from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Feb. 18; from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20; and from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Feb. 21.

Retailers Canadian Tire, Champs Sports, Flames FanAttic, Hockey Experts, Jersey City Canada and Sport Chek have stocked the shelves of their Calgary stores with official NHL Heritage Classic merchandise. In addition, Adrenalin & Tuxedo Sports, Game On Sports, Premier Sports, Pro Hockey Life, Rexall Drug Stores, and Shoppers Drug Mart also are showcasing official NHL Heritage Classic gifts and novelty items in Calgary area locations.

Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 4:11 PM

By Brian Hunter - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Flames talk Heritage atmosphere

On the one hand, the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic will be the same as any other game out of 82 on the regular-season schedule in that the winner receives two points.

Otherwise, it's hard to compare playing inside a dome in front of around 20,000 fans to skating under the late afternoon and night sky, dealing with the elements with double that number of screaming bodies in the stands of what normally serves as a Canadian Football League stadium.

"Obviously it's going to be quite different, I'm sure," forward Niklas Hagman said. "I haven't played an outdoor game yet. The crowd is so much further away. It is great, but for sure it's going to be different. And it's going to be different for [Montreal], too, we've just got to make sure we're more ready and get the two points."

Forward Tim Jackman talked about inviting his parents out for the game and how he was happy Calgary's recent hot stretch has made for a better storyline to the Heritage.

"Things worked out that we're in a playoff hunt and it's going to be a more exciting game than if we would have kept playing the way we were playing early in the season," Jackman said.

There's also the opponent to consider. What better team to play in a game of this magnitude than the Canadiens, an Original Six team with one of the most storied histories in professional sports, one that includes an NHL-record 24 Stanley Cup championships.

"I think it's going to be a great atmosphere," defenseman Mark Giordano said. "It seems like any time you play Montreal or Toronto, one of those teams, there's an extra buzz in the crowd. So I think it'll be an exciting game. There's going to be a lot of fans, I think, from both sides. It's going to be an important game."
Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 3:31 PM

By Brian Hunter - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Flames ready for whatever the weather

The city of Calgary woke Wednesday morning to temperatures in the single digits Fahrenheit and a light, but persistent snow falling.
It was a marked contrast to the previous day, when the mercury got up into the mid-40s and provided almost balmy conditions for the work crews preparing the rink at McMahon Stadium for Sunday's 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
Currently, the forecast for game day calls for a temperature of 31 degrees (-1 Celsius) and partly cloudy skies, but the players know anything could happen between now and then and are bracing themselves for any kind of weather.
"You can't predict it -- every day it seems like the forecast is changing," defenseman Mark Giordano said. "I was watching a little bit about that Edmonton game [the 2003 Heritage Classic, when the temperature was -22 Fahrenheit], the guys were talking about it the other day. It was cold, but they got through it. I'm sure we'll be fine, once we get into the game."
The inaugural Winter Classic, held on New Year's Day in 2008 between the Sabres and Penguins, saw snow fall at Ralph Wilson Stadium, providing for a picturesque backdrop to a thrilling game won by Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby in a shootout.
All the same, Flames captain Jarome Iginla said snow would not be part of his ideal forecast for the Heritage Classic.
"I'd rather not a day like today," Iginla said with a laugh. "In a perfect world, plus-2 or 3 (Celsius), sunny ..."
A reporter interjected wouldn't the sun get in the players' eyes?
"We have tinted visors," Iginla said, noting that with a 4 p.m. Mountain Time start, the sun probably wouldn't be a factor beyond the first period.
Posted On Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 4:21 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Otto likes what he sees with red-hot Flames

Joel Otto knows a thing or two about quality Calgary Flames teams. He was a member of the franchise's only Stanley Cup championship in 1989 and was a rookie when the Flames reached the Cup Final in 1986.

Otto is now an assistant coach for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, who will be apart of the 2011 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic festivities when the Hitmen host the Regina Pats on Monday at McMahon Stadium. But spending a lot of time in Calgary has allowed to see first-hand the turnaround of the Flames.

The Flames were left for dead in late December after GM Darryl Sutter was fired with the team holding a 16-18-3 record. But the Flames are 13-4-5 since Jay Feaster took over and have climbed into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

"I've seen a few games. Me along with the rest of the city is excited they’re playing better for sure," Otto said. "They seem to be playing for each other. Certainly confidence, once you get on a roll, you're feeling good about yourself and confident with each other, little things seem easier to do."

The Flames will carry a 9-1-2 record in their last 12 games into Wednesday's showdown with the Dallas Stars, but Otto doesn't think it's fair to scapegoat Sutter and heap all the praise on Feaster for the Flames' resurgence.

"I think it's unfair to blame Darryl for this turnaround," Otto said. "Whether Jay has come in with a different attitude, that certainly helps. But as you watch on the outside, I don't know what goes on on the inside there, they seem to be enjoying each other."

Otto's main concern is making sure the Hitmen, who are in last place in the Central Division at 17-35-2-2, are focused on their current three-game road swing and not looking ahead to what will certainly be a special game at McMahon Stadium.

"I think there's been a little bit of buzz," Otto said. "We had our team pictures last week in the jerseys we're going to wear. There's been talk about what they'll have to wear underneath. I think with the road trip we had some big games. We're fighting for points and trying to get in the playoffs and we kind of put ourselves in a hole. Our focus has been more on that than the game itself. I'm sure once they get back, they'll be pretty pumped and excited to be apart of this weekend."

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