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Classic a hit with sponsors

by Dave Lozo / Calgary Flames

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

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