More than a year’s worth of speculation, talk and planning went up in smoke when the Canadian government made the determination that an outdoor game on Parliament Hill in Ottawa simply wasn’t going to be feasible.
Now it appears the decision could see the outdoor game pulled out of Ottawa altogether.
The Senators announced the outdoor game on Parliament Hill wouldn’t be happening in early November, saying that they were disappointed that an event that would have been “iconic and historic and, in our view, the best way to cap off the year-long celebrations in 2017 to honour both the league’s Centennial and Canada’s 150th” wouldn’t be happening.
The thought, however, was that Ottawa would still consider other locations for the game — more specifically a deeper look at the possibility of hosting the game at TD Place, which plays host to the CFL’s Ottawa RedBlacks. In September, Senators president Cyril Leeder told TSN 1200 that it wasn’t an option the franchise was looking at “in any detail,” but there was some belief Ottawa could circle back to the site with Parliament Hill off the table.
And while that could still be the case, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the lack of a site for the outdoor game — which was reportedly slated to be played in Ottawa in December to commemorate the first game in league history — could mean Canada’s capital doesn’t host an outdoor game at all next season.
"We're going to see if we want to play a game on Founders Day somewhere else, and by that I mean in a different city," Bettman said, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. "We haven't made any decisions.”
A game on Founders Day would mean the schedule for the outdoor contest would be pushed up to Nov. 26, the 100th anniversary of the league being created at Montreal’s Windsor Hotel, and it could very well see the Canadiens as the home team for the event.
Like any other outdoor game, though, the venue would be the first concern. Just as seating would have been an issue in Ottawa, the league said it could be the same if Montreal were to host the game at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, the 25,000-seat home of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said even the nearly 31,000-seat BMO Field in Toronto is “on the low end of what can accommodate a game like this,” according to Rosen.
All this is to say that despite the concerns of Ottawa losing the game altogether, there could be a final push made by the city to secure the outing if TD Place is in the picture. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk met with Ottawa mayor Jim Watson last week, and Watson said he felt it was a “very positive” discussion before adding it was his job to ensure an outdoor game would happen in Ottawa.
With the Centennial Classic set to be played in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal are the only Canadian teams who’ve yet to host an outdoor game, but it appears one or the other — but likely not both — will check that off the list come 2017. And which city gets the game might be determined by whether or not Ottawa can find a place to make the contest happen.
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