The NHL has played in baseball stadiums and on football fields, but if the Montreal Canadiens get their wish and host an outdoor game, it could take place at a racetrack.
According to Guillaume Lefrancois of LaPresse, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson is working hard to secure an outdoor game. In order to do so, however, Molson will need to find a suitable venue for the spectacle. While some of the ideas make more sense – the CFL or MLS stadiums, for example – the most intriguing concepts involve hosting the event at the Montreal Hippodrome or Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
But preparing either racetrack to host an outdoor game would provide a major roadblock for the Canadiens. The Hippodrome doesn’t have indoor structures that could host the teams between periods, and neither does Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Those structures would have to be built in order to get the event off the ground at either venue, which isn't exactly the most cost-effective method of hosting the game.
What both tracks offer, though, is seating and lots of it. In 2011, the Hippodrome played host to a pair of U2 concerts and, while those did allow for floor seating, there were 80,000 people in attendance, many of which were in the stands. As for Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, temporary seating could be erected to boost the seating well above the 25,000 other venues can hold.
Those other potential venues, like Saputo Stadium and Percival Molson Stadium, hold between 20-25,000. With the average attendance at Montreal’s Bell Centre nearly 21,300, it wouldn’t make much sense to take the game outdoors when ticket revenue would not generate all that much more than an indoor game.
Hosting the game at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’s hairpin turn – which, writes Lefrancois, is often discussed as a potential location – would also offer the incredible backdrop of Parc Jean-Drapeau, which played host to Expo 67, the World’s Fair held in Montreal.
Placing the outdoor game at a racetrack may also give the game some added flare. At this point, we’ve seen the historic baseball stadiums like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park host the game and the NHL did it’s grand-scale outdoor contest at The Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. Hosting the game at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve would make the game as much a spectacle as it has been in recent years.
With Expo 67’s 50th anniversary in 2017, the thought is Montreal will push for an outdoor game to take place that year. 2017 will also mark Montreal’s 375th anniversary. Winnipeg’s Heritage Classic game has been pushed back to the 2016-17 season, but the belief is the game will be played in December 2016 rather than the new year. That leaves 2017 open, and the Canadiens seem like a tremendous fit.
However, as the most storied team in hockey history and the franchise that puts together the best ceremonies in the game, no matter where or when the Canadiens host the game it’s sure to be an outstanding scene.