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Heritage Classic put on hold until 2016-17

Jets, Bombers couldn’t agree on date for outdoor game

The puck is seen on the ice during the third period of the Heritage Classic hockey game between the Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C. Sunday, March 2, 2014.

JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The puck is seen on the ice during the third period of the Heritage Classic hockey game between the Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C. Sunday, March 2, 2014.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/1/2015 (1993 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman often says a decision isn’t official until the league announces it and he was proven correct on Tuesday.

The Heritage Classic, which organizers hoped to stage in Winnipeg next season, will be postponed for one year.

Three years of planning, discussions and negotiations couldn’t prevent this deal from going south at the 12th hour when the NHL and the Winnipeg Football Club couldn’t agree on a date.

The NHL and the Jets may have agreed to host an outdoor game in Winnipeg but without an agreement to play the game at Bombers’ managed Investors Group Field there is no show.

The NHL and Jets may have the sticks and pucks but they need the Bombers’ outdoor ice.

All three parties have agreed to try and play the game early in the 2016-17 season, according to a release issued on Tuesday afternoon.

‘All parties are very hopeful that a date can be secured early in the 2016–17 NHL season and will continue working toward that objective. The game will be an exciting celebration of hockey in our province and our city, one which both True North and the Bombers look forward to hosting at a time which works for all parties involved’ — joint statement

"True North Sports & Entertainment Limited and the Winnipeg Football Club, along with the National Hockey League, would like to formally announce that they were unable to finalize a date to hold the Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field during the 2015-16 NHL season," read the statement.

"All parties are very hopeful that a date can be secured early in the 2016-17 NHL season and will continue working toward that objective. The game will be an exciting celebration of hockey in our province and our city, one which both True North and the Bombers look forward to hosting at a time which works for all parties involved."

The NHL wanted to play the game in late December, while the football club was pushing for a February date.

The Bombers didn’t want the game played so close to the Grey Cup, while February doesn’t work for the NHL due to its all-star game and other soon-to-be announced outdoor games.

A January date was deemed unsuitable by the Jets due to weather concerns. January is normally the coldest of the three months.

The Bombers and Jets originally viewed hosting these events in the same calendar year as a positive.

"We can add around 8,000 seats to get our seating to just under 41,000," said Bombers CEO Wade Miller in December of 2013.

"We’d like to have the seats up for the Banjo Bowl and keep them in place through (the Grey Cup and Heritage Classic) if it’s a fit for both organizations."

The Bombers and Jets have worked together on a number of concert events in the past.

"I think there’s some infrastructure costs we can share. It’s well known that we have a good relationship with the football club and we actually formally manage their non-football events for them and have for some time," Jets chairman Mark Chipman said previously.

"I think it would be a fairly easy thing for us to work with them and to manage all of those details to maximize whatever investment is necessary for extra seating."

Negotiations began and moved forward. Just last week an NHL source told the Free Press, "we’re not announcing it until everything is signed. You know it’s happening. We just have to get everything in place."

Bettman and the NHL wanted to play the outdoor game in December of this year, just weeks after Winnipeg hosted the 2015 Grey Cup.

The Bombers viewed the events being held so close together as a potential issue for the CFL’s showcase weekend, fearing the hockey game would overshadow the football game and cannibalize ticket sales and corporate sponsorships.

Outdoor games such as the Winter and Heritage Classic are NHL-owned events.

The Bombers would simply collect a rental feel for the hockey game.

A well-run and successful Grey Cup can generate millions of dollars for the host franchise.

The Bombers proposed the game be played in February with the caveat the NHL pick up the cost of heating the stadium over the winter months as well as taking on a portion of the temporary seating costs. The Bombers proposed a cost structure to the NHL close to $1 million.

The CFL recently witnessed its showcase game struggle to succeed in Vancouver. The Grey Cup did not sell out and the market was flooded with discount tickets with club sideline seats selling for $639, down from an original price of $995 and upper bowl seats offered at $49, reduced from $145.

The average ticket price for Winnipeg’s Heritage Classic was expected to be in the $170 range.

The Bombers have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons and are a long shot to reach the Grey Cup this season. Selling out the game, without the Bombers in contention, is not an automatic.

The Grey Cup game is put on by the league, however, and the host team handles ticket sales and keeps all of the revenue.

The league sells and keeps the revenue from game sponsorships, which is then distributed amongst all CFL clubs.

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

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History

Updated on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 1:43 PM CST: Typos fixed.

2:45 PM: Updates with full writethrough

5:11 PM: Adds statement from True North / Winnipeg Football Club

January 21, 2015 at 7:10 AM: Updates with full writethru

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