OSEG 'optimistic' about talks for bringing an outdoor Senators game to Lansdowne
First glimmer of hope that Ottawa could get an outdoor game in December 2017
Tentative talks are underway for an outdoor NHL game at Lansdowne Park between the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens in December 2017, the CBC has learned.
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It's the first glimmer of hopeful news for hockey fans wanting an outdoor game in the capital since the federal government put the kibosh on staging an NHL game on the front lawn of Parliament Hill early last month.
The discussions are still in their early stages — and so sensitive that no one would agree to speak on the record — but talks are centred around hosting a possible game the weekend before Dec. 19. 2017, which will be the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game, also played between the Sens and the Habs.
Officials from the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which owns three sports teams and runs events TD Place stadium, would not even explicitly confirm that talks are happening.
"I am optimistic that we will go into a period of discussions with the Senators and the NHL," OSEG chief executive Bernie Ashe told CBC. "We're hopeful they will result in a positive outcome."
However, other sources confirmed that preliminary talks have begun.
City Hall insiders say that Mayor Jim Watson was "instrumental" in bringing the various groups together, and impressed upon the Senators, in particular, the economic and marketing benefit the game would be to the city and the hockey franchise.
It's still not a done deal, and it's really up to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to give the game the thumbs up. (The Senators declined to comment on any discussions with OSEG for an outdoor game.)
Bettman made prospect of game seem bleak
But the prospects for an outdoor game are looking much more promising than a couple of weeks ago when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters the league hasn't heard from Melnyk that the Senators were looking at an alternate venue for an outdoor game after the Parliament Hill option fell through.
Bettman also added, somewhat alarmingly for local hockey fans, that the NHL was "going to see if we want to play a game on Founders Day somewhere else, and by that I mean in a different city."
Virtually all NHL outdoor games are played at football stadiums.
In October, the Winnipeg Jets played the Edmonton Oilers at Investors Group Field and on New Year's Day, the Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Detroit Red Wings at the BMO Field in Toronto in what's being billed as "the first-ever NHL Centennial Classic."