Report: Maple Leafs hoping to host outdoor game in January 2017

USATSI_8824305_168381338_lowres
Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs will celebrate their centennial season in 2017-18, although they didn’t adopt the Maple Leafs nickname until 1927. 

As one of the NHL’s oldest and most storied franchises, it’ll come as no surprise that the NHL itself will similarly be celebrating its centennial season that year. And you know what that means: gimmicks, gimmicks and more gimmicks.

The NHL’s grandest gimmick of all is the outdoor game. The Maple Leafs were able to play in one a few years ago – who will ever forget Randy Carlyle’s famous battle with a toaster oven – but Toronto has never hosted a game, despite the metropolis’ status as the unquestioned centre of the hockey universe. It seems that may change in the near future, although the Maple Leafs aren’t the only team hoping to host an outdoor game in 2017.

Here’s the latest on the state of the effort to bring outdoor hockey to the 6ix from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, as reported during a Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night:

Now that the World Cup is done, a lot of attention has turned to the NHL’s 100 anniversary celebration. Outdoor games – there’s a lot of teams that want them – at least three Canadian teams, Montreal in November, Ottawa in December, and Toronto in the previous January, are trying to get outdoor games that year.

What’s interesting to note is that Friedman is talking about Toronto’s desire to host an outdoor game the “previous January”, or in January 2017, during the 2016-17 season rather than during their true centennial campaign. Does it really make much of a difference to celebrate 100 years rather than celebrating 100 seasons?

Now, of course, reports of this nature aren’t new. Ken Campbell reported last year that the Maple Leafs were likely to get both an outdoor game AND the NHL All-Star game in 2017 (then-President of MLSE Tim Leiweke was also reportedly pushing hard for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft also).

Looking back at Brendan Shanahan’s comments from last January, there may be space to read between the lines here.

“We’re still talking about it,” Shanahan told The Hockey News of the club’s reported plans to host the Winter Classic, All-Star weekend and the NHL Draft. “I actually spoke today with Montreal today about their experience going through the same thing a few years ago. I don’t know if it’s a great idea to do everything (All-Star Game, outdoor game, NHL draft).

“I think we’ll talk about it a little bit more before we start going through the press,” Shanahan continued. “But needless to say, we have very big expectations of what it should be like and how it should be and whether we want to do everything in one year or roll it out over a couple of years, we’ll see.”

    Perhaps that initial skepticism is key here. Maybe Shanahan and the Maple Leafs did their research and decided to spread out their hosting commitments. 

    The club can celebrate their 100 year anniversary with an outdoor game during the 2016-17 season, then host the draft and All-Star weekend the next season. If the plan is still for Toronto to host All-Star weekend and the Entry Draft in 2017-18, then at least hosting the Winter Classic the year previous would space things out.