Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Update: The Winter Classic Alumni Game

Last week, I wrote about the role of NHL Alumni taking part in activities during the New Year's holiday extravaganza. In particular, with emphasis being paid to the lack of financial funding coming their way.

Addressing concerns of many in the game, past and present, was NHL Alumni president Mark Napier. Recently Napier was contacted by the NHL to discuss the subject of revenue raised as a result of the Winter Classic Alumni Game. The following quotes were extracted from his interview with Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star.

On sitting down and chatting with the NHL...

"Hopefully we can have some good meetings and some of the revenues from (future Winter Classic alumni) games can go to some of our members. Obviously there's some significant revenues there. One thing I will say in defence of the league is they might have guessed (the alumni game) would do well, but they didn't know for sure...We want to look forward and talk to the league about it, about how we can make it bigger and better and get some money in our guys' jeans that really need it."

On the topic of NHL pensions and those who played in the Original Six era...

"I don't think any of (the Original Six-era players) can live off the pension. My pension wasn't all that good. But it's certainly better than Ted Lindsay' ands Johnny Bowers, who made about $100 (annually) for every year they played (Napier's pension allows for $1000 (annually) for every year played)."

Looking to the future...

"Hopefully this alumni game will be around for another 50, 60, 70 years. This game has a really good chance of benefiting all our membership."

                                       ~                ~                  ~

These discussions couldn't come at a better time. Speculation has the next Winter Classic taking place at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The contest will feature two Original Six franchises, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Speaking with the Windsor Star, Red Wings executive Jim Devellano expressed Detroit's eagerness to host the event. "We applied to put in Comerica Park (home to the Detroit Tigers baseball club, also part of the Ilitch family), but it's a league-driven event. They're going after a world all-time attendance record. It's no surprise that's what the NHL is trying to accomplish."

Since the Red Wings may lose out for their venue being considered for the Winter Classic Game on New Year's Day, there is a consolation prize. This is where the Alumni match comes into play. As the home team organizes the Alumni Game and rakes in the profit, Detroit would be more than happy for the gathering to occur at Comerica.

If any NHL outfit is qualified to properly run this operation, it is the Detroit Red Wings. Mike and Marian Ilitch along with their management team, are perhaps the most pro-alumni owners in the National Hockey League. Add in a massive flock of Leafs fans in Ontario venturing south for the festivities and it is a win-win situation.

Known as the "Big House", the projected attendance at Ann Arbor Stadium for the next Winter Classic Game is 104,174.

Just imagine the spillage for the Winter Classic Alumni Game.

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