They'll be playing NHL hockey at McMahon Stadium next February, which begs the question: will there be a horse racing up and down the sidelines every time the Calgary Flames score?
The Calgary Flames will take over the Calgary Stampeders' CFL field - and maybe their touchdown horse, too - on Feb. 20, 2011 for an NHL regular-season game that is expected to feature the Montreal Canadiens as opposition. Patterned after the NHL's Heritage Classic/Winter Classic events, Calgary's outside tilt will be confirmed Friday when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the media before the start of the Chicago Blackhawks-Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup final.
The Flames at McMahon, which had been talked about last season, will be held following the 2011 Winter Classic. It has been reported Pittsburgh Penguins will play host to the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field on New Year's Day. That would highlight yet another Sidney Crosby-Alexander Ovechkin showdown, which has proved to be one of the NHL's must-see attractions.
The Edmonton Oilers kicked off the outdoor craze in 2003 with their Heritage Classic against Montreal. Since then, there have been three Winter Classics, all held in the United States, with two of them staged in hallowed baseball parks, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.
Bettman has wanted another outdoor affair for Canada but one that would come after New Year's Day. That would allow the league enough time to transport its ice plant and personnel from one side of the continent to the other, with enough lead-in time to ensure the ice and facility is ready here.
McMahon Stadium seats 35,650 but was expanded to 46,020 for the 2009 Grey Cup game by a temporary seating section in the north end zone. The facility was originally built in 1960 solely for football but has been upgraded several times and has held a variety of events from rock concerts to evangelist Billy Graham to the 1988 Winter Olympic opening ceremonies and those dogs that run around an obstacle course at breakneck speeds.
The other question about an outdoor hockey game at McMahon Stadium is, "How cold will it be come late-February in the Foothills City?" Typically, temperatures range from -2C to -15C. It could also be warmer, given a kindly Chinook wind. It could also be worse. When the Oilers faced Montreal in 2003, the temperature on Nov. 22 was -18C with a nasty wind chill.
Should weather conditions turn too severe, it's possible the Flames and Canadiens could move indoors to the Pengrowth Saddledome and play there. To date, the NHL has never had to scuttle or re-jig an outdoor game.
The Flames and Stampeders are more than sporting neighbours. The Flames concessions group handles food services at McMahon during Stampeder football games. The two teams also have a dog for a mascot.