CALGARY – Meeting the media Saturday between 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic practices, NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said the other four Canadian teams have all expressed strong interest in being part of the event. Collins said no decision would be made about what's next for the Heritage Classic until League executives have time to evaluate this weekend's game.
One bright spot before the puck is even dropped Sunday afternoon: This game earned more sponsorship dollars than the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, and that game's sponsorship revenues set a record.
"The Canadian fans, advertisers and sponsors have all been saying they wanted an outdoor Canadian game," said Collins. "We wanted to find the right business model for it and feel great about this weekend."
Collins wasn't buying that a second NHL outdoor game dilutes the concept.
"You can actually make the argument there is more demand for it when you see the local impact here in Calgary," said Collins. "What makes this game so special is it's a regular season match-up that counts for two points."
He said NHL Hockey Operations was fully consulted about "how close can the game get to the playoff push" and the conclusion was this was about as far into the regular season as feasible.
"Both teams were completely open to the concept from the first time we talked," said Collins.
We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.
— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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