Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Outdoor NHL in city? Chipman open to it

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ARE more than 30,000 Winnipeg Jets fans crazy enough to watch a game outside? In February?

Mark Chipman thinks so.

The chairman of True North Sports & Entertainment has a million other things on his plate these days but at some point, he wouldn't mind hosting a Heritage Classic NHL game in Winnipeg.

"If the opportunity came along, it's something we would certainly explore. But it's not something we're looking to do next year by any stretch," he said.

The NHL stages two outdoor regular-season games. The Winter Classic is held in a U.S. city every season on or around New Year's Day. This year's version pitted the Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers in front of 45,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park, the home of baseball's Philadelphia Phillies.

The Heritage Classic, meanwhile, has been held twice since 2003. Last year, the Calgary Flames hosted the Montreal Canadiens in front of more than 41,000 fans at McMahon Stadium, the home of the CFL's Stampeders.

Chipman said he thinks it would be great to host the Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field, the football stadium under construction at the University of Manitoba that will welcome the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the U of M Bisons for their upcoming seasons.

"I don't even know when the next (Heritage Classic) would be available. I think people would be very enthusiastic (in Winnipeg). The Heritage Classics have been big successes whenever they've been held," he said.

Chipman acknowledged Winnipeg's notorious winter -- but said the weather can be a roll of the dice in many cities throughout the NHL season.

"I don't know if it's an event you do in January in Winnipeg. In February, you have less of a weather risk. You run the risk of melting and having to make ice," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2012 A6

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