Report: Toronto ‘in line’ to land 2017 Winter Classic


The Toronto Maple Leafs liked partaking in this year’s Winter Classic so much, they’re hoping to land one of their own.

The Leafs are reportedly “in line” to be the first-ever Canadian host for the Classic, according to sources of Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, and aiming to land the league’s signature event during the franchise’ 100th anniversary season in 2016-17 — at BMO Field, home of MLS outfit Toronto FC.

Here’s more, from Sportsnet:

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has held high-level discussions with the municipal, provincial and federal government and believes that they are all on board with renovating the six-year-old [BMO Field] stadium, according to president and CEO Tim Leiweke. The driving force behind the proposed expansion is a desire to hold major events like the Winter Classic and NHL sources indicate that Toronto is in line to land the signature outdoor game should the building’s capacity be increased.

The biggest issue to be worked out for the project is determining how it is financed. BMO Field was built in 2007 for a little more than $60-million and Leiweke acknowledged that the cost of expanding it would likely end up being at least twice that much.

BMO Field’s current capacity is around 22,000 for sporting events (like soccer) and 28,000 for concerts. It’s owned by the City of Toronto and would require a major facelift in order to host an event of the Classic’s status, especially with regards to seating — BMO would likely need to at least double in capacity.

From a participation standpoint, appearing in two Winter Classics isn’t anything new. Pittsburgh, who visited Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo to take on the Sabres in the inaugural 2008 Classic, hosted one of their own at Heinz Field in 2011. Philly played against the Bruins at Fenway in 2010 and got the ’12 Classic, while Detroit played Chicago at Wrigley in 2009 and is now hosting the latest edition of the Winter Classic at the University of Michigan’s Big House.

As mentioned above, though, Toronto would be the first-ever Canadian host. The team already broke new ground by becoming the first-ever Canadian participant in the Winter Classic this year.


DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”