It was the worst-kept secret in Ottawa. Today, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made it official – the Ottawa Senators will host their first outdoor game on Dec. 16, 2017, against their division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. The game will commemorate the NHL’s centennial celebration, marking the 100th anniversary of the first game played on Dec. 19, 1917. That game was played between the Senators and the Canadiens.
Outdoor hockey is headed to Canada’s capital.
— NHL (@NHL) March 17, 2017
Ottawa: Perfect Location
Ottawa is a perfect place to host this great tilt. Not only does the outdoor game commemorate the NHL’s centennial anniversary, but it also falls in the year when Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary of confederation. The game will cap off a full year of sporting events in Canada’s capital which includes hosting the Grey Cup on Nov. 26, 2017, at TD Place in Lansdowne Park.
After the announcement, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Hockey Writers about the importance of having this game in Ottawa:
“I think it’s very important for a number of reasons; this city has such close ties with the league, our history and the Stanley Cup. The Senators have also never been able to host and outdoor game. It’s a perfect place to play this game.” Daly said.
Gary Bettman told me today outdoor game on Parliament Hill was not financially viable. Mayor Jim Watson just said cost would've been $7 M.
— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) March 17, 2017
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk made it known that he would have liked to have had this outdoor game played on Parliament Hill, but there were challenges in making that happen. Daly noted that the league explored the Parliament Hill venue, but is happy with the decision to have the game at Lansdowne Park:
“Lansdowne was something we knew that could work, we worked hard on the Parliament Hill scenario first, ultimately the logistics were just too significant to overcome. We moved to Lansdowne and they (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group) worked well with us and the Senators and we ultimately got through all the obstacles. It was a good process,” Daly told The Hockey Writers.
"We played in Vancouver in the not so much outdoor game but it was a great experience. We're excited," says Karlsson. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) March 17, 2017
Playing Against a Rival
In recent memory, the two teams have met twice in the playoffs and there is plenty of blood that has been spilled between the Senators and the Canadiens. Having this game be played between these two franchises is important for both fan bases. Melnyk offered these comments about the rivalry after the outdoor game announcement:
“I think it’s especially important after this year as we are going back and forth between first place and second place. I think it’s a great rivalry. A lot of people here, before the Senators, were already Habs fans; you were a Leafs fan or a Habs fan. I think it is a very healthy rivalry, we have met in the playoffs, they were aggressive games and we’re fighting for the same thing and that’s the Stanley Cup,” Melnyk told the media.
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk jokes he hopes it's "at least" minus 20 for the outdoor game
— Ken Warren (@Citizenkwarren) March 17, 2017
The rivalry will heat up very soon as the Senators and Canadiens will face off three times in a span of a week – twice this weekend and once more on March 25, 2017. The outcome of these three head-to-head matchups will likely have a big part in determining which team will win the Atlantic Division. Senators general manager Pierre Dorion talked about the rivalry heating up after the outdoor game announcement:
“It’s probably our most heated rivalry. The last two times we made the playoffs, we played the Montreal Canadiens. We are going into a big weekend where we are going to play them for two games; both teams are trending upwards after missing the playoffs last year, both teams are headed in the right direction,” Dorion said.
This outdoor game is great news for the city of Ottawa and fans of the Senators and will be a highlight of the 2017-18 season. If these two teams meet at some point in this year’s post-season it will add even more fire to an already-fierce rivalry. One thing is certain: an outdoor game between these two Canadian teams will not disappoint.