TORONTO – Nazem Kadri is ready to start the campaign: The Toronto Maple Leafs want in on the Winter Classic.
While watching Monday’s outdoor game between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park, the 21-year-old forward posted a message to his Twitter account about getting the Leafs a spot in next year’s game. Kadri was plenty aware of speculation over the weekend that Toronto might be tabbed to visit Detroit for the NHL’s showcase event in 2013.
“It’s something that I’ve always watched,” Kadri said before Toronto faced Tampa on Tuesday. “I think it would be cool for Toronto to get in on something like that.
“It’s something that definitely needs to happen for sure.”
For its part, the NHL has indicated that it will be some time before a final decision is made on the participants for next year’s game. All commissioner Gary Bettman would acknowledge is it will be taken to a new venue.
“My guess is it will be played in a place we have not been before,” Bettman said Monday. “So, therefore, in the U.S., you’ve eliminated five locations. You can play with the other 25, play with geography and understand that temperature is a factor. … You can eliminate some of the warmer climates. We are not probably going to go back to where we have been.
“So that’s all you get from me today.”
One hurdle to having the Leafs participate is the fact that broadcaster NBC might not be happy losing a second U.S. viewing market. The TV ratings for Monday’s game were lower in America than the previous three years.
Like many NHL teams, Toronto has lobbied to host an outdoor game. The franchise is so eager to participate that general manager Brian Burke told one of his Twitter followers Monday cameras would only be allowed behind the scenes with the team if it were ahead of an outdoor game.
“If it’s part of a Winter Classic, we will do it,” wrote Burke.
There probably isn’t a player in the league who wouldn’t welcome the chance to play on the large stage that is the Winter Classic.
Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn watched brother Brayden score his first career NHL goal for the Flyers in Monday’s game. His parents were in attendance—something Luke hopes can be repeated with him as a participant next year.
“I think it would be unbelievable,” he said. “I would love to play in an outdoor game. Talking to my brother after, he said it was almost like a dream come true to play a game like that.”
Only a handful of Leafs have had the chance to skate outdoors in an NHL game. Clarke MacArthur narrowly missed out on being part of the inaugural Winter Classic at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium—the Sabres sent him to the American Hockey League a day before facing the Pittsburgh Penguins and recalled him a day after.
“It looks pretty cool to me,” said MacArthur. “A nice little event, it would be nice to have your family down for that. I think every year it keeps getting better too, that’s the thing. The ice looked better in Rangers-Philly.
“It’s just a cool thing.”
A full year away, Kadri is already dreaming of what the scene would be like with the Leafs and Red Wings facing off outdoors.
NHL chief operating officer John Collins said recently that Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Illitch favour a game in downtown Detroit at Comerica Park. However, Kadri and others would prefer to see it held at the Big House in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan’s football team and the site of a NCAA outdoor hockey game in December 2010.
“I think at the Michigan stadium—what does it hold, like 100,000-plus?” said Kadri. “That would be a ridiculous game to be a part of. It would be a dream come true.”