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Shoalts: Not another outdoor game Add to ...

Dear Gary Bettman,

Please accept this as a formal plea to cease and desist with these outdoor hockey games in football stadiums. The first one in Edmonton left me cold, to employ a pun as painful as your comparison between these games and the players playing on backyard rinks and ponds when they were children, and the rest even colder. Well, if I had lost my mind and actually attended the one in Hamilton last year, it would have left me wet, since it rained like crazy.

"Many of our players have great memories of playing outdoors when they were growing up," the commish said in his press release about the New Year's Day game in Buffalo. "This game provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase our great players, honour hockey's heritage and ring in the New Year with the best fans in sports."

Okay, Gary, we'll give you a pass on the tired reference to the city of the day's fans as "the best" in sports. But you and your marketing minions really have to get off this outdoor thing.

Even the three or four players in today's NHL who may have actually played most of their childhood hockey outdoors cannot relate to these games. Since when did any of them play in a rink set on artificial turf in a sterile football stadium that seats 80,000 people?

If you really want to re-create a heritage experience, go over to Walter Gretzky's house, flood his backyard and then send out the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But no, you guys have to play one of these games every year and enough people buy tickets and enough of my loopy media colleagues churn out the worst baseball spring-training prose to describe it ("Where ephemeral meets catharsis," in the words of the great Dan Jenkins) to convince you to continue this madness.

Cripes, why not be honest and just tell the fans, since 80,000 of you numbskulls will pay to see this we'd be nuts to stop doing it.

Thankfully, I will dodge this assignment. The Leafs are sensibly playing indoors that night.


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