NHL Outdoor Game Faces Huge College Bowl Game Conflicts

NHL OUTDOOR GAME BOWLED OVER BY COLLEGE CONFLICT? The outdoor game between the Sabres and Pens is officially on - scheduled for New Year’s Day at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.

Edmonton hosted Montreal in an outdoor game in 2003, which drew 57,167 at Commonwealth Stadium in Alberta. WGR-AM reports today that the Buffalo game is already sold out, with a crowd of over 73,000 expected.

NHL Outdoor Game

The game will be broadcast live on NBC in the U.S., and on the CBC and RDS in Canada.

The BUFFALO NEWS reports that the NHL itself will pocket most of the revenue from the game, as the Sabres will “receive a check for the revenues they would have received had the game been played in HSBC Arena. The NHL will collect the rest.

The NHL is in charge of the logistics of the event, including the installation of the ice surface, which will be expensive and possibly problematic. The ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT-CHRONICLE reports if it is over 45 degrees on gameday, the ice “won’t hold up. If it’s too cold, the ice will crack and chip.

Bettman: “It’s conceivable if the weather doesn’t cooperate we might have to do it on the next day.

And don’t expect the game to be a paragon of speed, skill and physicality. Penguins winger George Laraque, who played in the Alberta-based game as a member of the Oilers, to the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: “It was totally different [than a typical NHL game], it was so cold. Guys did not hit. They could not make moves. Eventually everybody was just dumping the puck. It was too cold. And some guys were wearing (caps) under their helmets. They almost could not see. But mostly it was awesome to be part of.

Now for the most important element of the event - American TV viewership: William Houston of the TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL incorrectly notes the game should score good ratings since college football bowl telecasts on New Year’s Day have “dropped off because of the stretched college football bowl schedule.”

Uh, Billy, there are SIX college football bowl telecasts on New Year’s Day - including the Rose and Sugar Bowls. In other words, the NHL won’t get much traction on NBC, no matter how much the network and league promotes it stateside. There is no official gametime set yet for the hockey game, but the half-dozen college games stretch from an 11am kickoff to 8pm, leaving no window for the NHL affair - at least from a football fan’s perspective.