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A classic for Calgary

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames
It's unofficially, official -- the Calgary Flames are slated to host an outdoor Heritage Classic in 2011.

The NHL formally announced a game between the Flames and the Montreal Canadiens will be staged at McMahon Stadium on February 20, 2011, pending approval from the NHL Player's Association.

Commissioner Gary Bettman made the annoucement in Chicago on Friday, on the eve of the Stanley Cup.

"The NHL also hopes to play an outdoor regular season game in Canada next season and will be discussing the plan with the Competition Committee in June," said Bettman.

"The Heritage Classic would be played at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Sunday, February 20 and would feature the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames. CBC and RDS would carry the game in Canada and VERSUS would telecast the outdoor match in the United States.

"Assuming plans for the game are approved, it will be the first NHL regular season game contested outdoors in Canada since the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Canadiens at first Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium on November 22, 2003."

The NHLPA and the NHL had discussions about an outdoor game in Canada for last season but Bettman said there was not enough time to make a game a reality.

"Consider this a soft, unofficial announcement," said Bettman.

"It is my hope and expectation that this will not be an issue," said Bettman of gaining approval from the NHLPA.

"We have been anxious to get an outdoor game for a number of years. It was a near miss last season," said Flames president and CEO Ken King. "It would appear that we are closer than we have ever been with Mr. Bettman's announcement today.

"I know there are still some hoops to jump through but a lot planning and a lot of thought has already gone into it so we are hoping that all the conditions are met."

And if the game is officially approved, it will be a big, big event for the City of Calgary.

"It will be a great event for Calgary. We have had plenty of interest from fans since the potential for a game was raised two years ago," said King. "It will be well-attended. It will be a lot of tun. The three things we don't know are the absolute confirmation of the game, God's weather and the outcome of the game."

The game at McMahon would be the second outdoor game of the 2010 season for the NHL. The Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field on New Year's Day.

This will be the second time that a Canadian city has hosted an outdoor game after Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium set the standard in the inaugural Winter Classic between the Oilers and Canadiens in 2003.

This will also be the second time that the Pittsburgh Penguins have been involved in the Winter Classic after they faced the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008.

When and if the game is fully approved, the Flames and the NHL will have more details, including how tickets can be purchased, to reveal.

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