Puck Daddy - NHL

Bringing the outdoor game gimmick to minor league cities is a really wonderful development. The live hockey experience is always going to be the easiest way to convert the non-believers; outdoor games create local buzz and attract casual sports fans. Plus, some Podunk game at a fairground isn't going to infringe on the grandeur of the Winter Classic.

The long-gestating AHL outdoor classic -- the "Mirabito Outdoor Classic" -- is now set for 1 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2010 at the New York State Fairgrounds, with the Syracuse Crunch (Columbus Blue Jackets affiliate) taking on the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators affiliate). Senator Chuck Schumer wants it to become an annual tradition, perhaps even for cities outside of upstate New York, as long as he's the reason they're happening and there are cameras involved.

Of course, the economic details on this thing will ultimately dictate if the trend continues in the AHL. From Syracuse.com:

The game is estimated to bring in 2,800 overnight guests and pump $1 million into the local economy. Tom Mitchell, executive vice president of operations for Binghamton, said ticket sales have already taken off in his city. "This probably won't be easy,'' Mitchell said of putting together the game. "But I commend the Syracuse Crunch and (owner Howard Dolgon) for their tenacity and determination to do it.''

The game could cost as much as $900,000. The Crunch is paying as much as $550,000, which includes about $400,000 for installation of the temporary rink. Sponsorship helps out with about $350,000, including $100,000 from Time Warner. Gov. David Paterson helped secure a $75,000 grant from the Empire State Development Corp., and also cleared the way for the Crunch to use the Fairgrounds without paying a user fee.

The article says that "the contest will be televised live by Time Warner Cable and the feed might be picked up by the NHL Network." Wait, "might be?" Yeah, why would they preempt the 80th showing of On The Fly for the first outdoor game in AHL history?

Hopefully, it's a success, because the idea of "mini-Classics" in other AHL cities is really appealing. Hershey? Manitoba? Milwaukee? Hey, maybe it's a way for Toronto to finally get its Classic.

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