Nothing says “classic” like BMO Field…?

While recording the most recent episode of It’s Called Football Daily, we had a live chat going, in which a question was raised concerning the story that emerged yesterday about Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (owners of Toronto FC and the Maple Leafs) supposedly looking at hosting an outdoor NHL game at BMO Field. The segment didn’t make it into the final cut of the show, but my immediate response to the question was — as is often my answer to questions of all sorts — two simple words: fucking ridiculous.

Well, I’ve been able to sleep on the issue, and I’ve made my analysis a little more sophisticated: it’s completely fucking ridiculous.

MLSE is widely loathed in this city (sometimes rightly, sometimes not) for the perception that its brass are concerned with nothing other than maximizing profits, even if it’s to the ultimate detriment of the teams it owns and their fans. So while many fans would be happy to see the NHL’s “Winter Classic” played in Toronto, hosting it at BMO Field would be the worst possible move in terms of public relations (especially amongst TFC supporters, who’ve shown no shyness in expressing their opinions to the front office and have a deep sense of ownership of the stadium, as proven by their reaction to any discussions concerning the potential future sharing of the field with the CFL’s Argonauts).

First off, there’s the size of the stadium. In its current configuration, it maxes out at 22,000 seats. The argument could reasonably be made that restricting the availability of tickets would optimize the team’s ability to charge exorbitant prices for each individual ducat. “Cynical cash grab” strike one.

Then, you must remember that BMO Field is operated by MLSE, and while I’m not completely familiar with the specifics of the organization’s arrangement with City Hall, I’m guessing that MLSE sees at least some cut of the profits from any concession and merchandise sales… whereas at the Rogers Centre (which would easily sell out for the Winter Classic), there’s no such financial gain. “Cynical cash grab” strike two.

And you’ve got this quote from the above-linked article: “While Toronto’s BMO Field would only accommodate a maximum of about 25,000 fans, both [MLSE chairman Richard] Peddie and [Maple Leafs GM Brian] Burke said the surrounding facilities at the CNE grounds would offer great venues for corporate events, a fan festival and other related activities.” The game itself is secondary, apparently; the ability to cross-promote and sell space at premium prices based on the hype generated is of primary concern. “Cynical cash grab” strike three.

Don’t get me wrong — I would love to see the Winter Classic played in Toronto. I would go, myself. But the logical location is the Rogers Centre. There would be no problem selling 60,000 tickets and the environment would be spectacular. And even though the old SkyDome doesn’t have as much history as other Winter Classic venues like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, there were still many historic moments with the Blue Jays back in the early 1990s. A middling soccer team’s three-year-old stadium doesn’t quite have the same “classic” pedigree.

So MLSE, if you’re going to pursue the Winter Classic, please don’t put it at BMO Field. Soccer fans don’t want it, hockey fans don’t want it, and if the move was forced through, you’d only be serving to scuttle any goodwill you may have accumulated over the past couple of years and alienate potential customers.

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5 Responses to “Nothing says “classic” like BMO Field…?”

  1. Varsity Stadium. Half the tickets cost $30, the other half $3000. Everybody wins.

  2. Don’t worry, Squizz. The NHL would never go for it anyway. The Winter Classic is basically an American event. I seriously doubt NBC would allow the game to feature a single Canadian team, let alone have the game itself played in Canada.

    • Good point. Funny how almost every discussion of the “winter classic” (even in Canada) treats the one in Buffalo as the first one, ignoring the “heritage classic” (or whatever it was called) between the Oilers and Habs at Commonwealth.

  3. I’d hate to say it, but the three Cynical Cash Grab points you made pretty much seals the deal for why it’s probably going to happen. What more could ML$E ask for than to have a North American special event happen at their stadium during what is probably the largest down-time for the stadium? While they’d probably easily sell out SkyDome, would they take a big enough cut of the gate to replace what they could make off 100% of the gate if it were at BMO?

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