Heritage Classic clash lacking buzz

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

NHL Heritage Classic is to take place at BC Place on Sunday, March 2, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

NHL Heritage Classic is to take place at BC Place on Sunday, March 2, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

You could argue the upcoming Heritage Classic — the third of its kind since 2003 — features a fabricated rivalry. 
But that won't keep the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators — two mediocre teams — from taking centre stage Sunday at BC Place in the final matchup of the NHL's six outdoor games this season.
That is, if Vancouver's main football and soccer stadium, which is hosting a hockey game for the first time, can even open up the retractable roof for it.

For now, the forecast calls for rain showers or snow flurries for Sunday's 1 p.m. PT showdown, which could put a damper on an event already lacking in buzz.

While Don Renzulli, the NHL's executive VP of events, claims that 90% of tickets have been sold — with the capacity between 52,000 to 53,000 — there’s still plenty of prime seats available.

"There's a lot of interest for … a unique once-in-a-lifetime event like this and people want to go in and have a look, but there's only a certain price they'll pay,” said Mario Livich, president of ShowTimeTickets.com.

"Everyday we're seeing an increase in calls, hits and purchases leading up to the game."

Livich said the higher rows in the lower level and centre-ice tickets are moving really slow, but he expected prices to adjust accordingly to fill up the building.

On Ticketmaster, ticket prices range from $104 to $324.

"They over-estimated the demand for this game and had tickets been priced more reasonably, they would have been a much better sell," Livich said.

Meanwhile, VancouverTicket.com manager Kingsley Bailey said ticket purchases have picked up a bit over the past couple days, but "it's only because people know they can get in cheap."

He noted he was able to get up to 18 tickets piggy-backed in a row on Ticketmaster — as in rows of seats behind each other.

"I know the 90% that they are saying is sold out is not true," Bailey said, adding the league targeted the wrong demographic of fans for this game.

"If they want to hit this out of the park, they would have offered $40, $50 tickets and have those lower sections as a family section … and that would have opened the door to a lot of people who would not go to a game at Rogers Arena.

"I don't think, after this situation, we'll ever see another one in Vancouver again."

Also irrelevant is the marketing of the 1915 Stanley Cup final clash between the then-Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association against the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey Association.

It ended with the Millionaires taking the best-of-five series, not that many of either team's current fan base was alive to follow it back then.

As for the game itself, it'll be the second meeting between these two clubs this season, with the Canucks winning 5-2 back in November.

The Sens haven’t beaten Vancouver in six straight games, but the focus for either side at the moment is earning a playoff spot with about 20 games left to go.

Coming off their first win in eight games on Wednesday, the Canucks aren't looking ahead to the big event just yet as they have the Minnesota Wild to deal with Friday.

"To be honest with you, we just want to build off (Wednesday night) and worry about tomorrow," goalie Roberto Luongo said.

Added captain Henrik Sedin: "It's going to feel a lot better walking out onto that ice if we can win (Friday)."

Turning things in the right direction is key after a miserable stretch that saw them struggle offensively in the franchise's longest pointless streak of the season. And even so, their 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues wasn't all that convincing — although the players stressed it's those tight games they'll have to win in order to crack a playoff spot.

"We're feeling good about our game," Daniel Sedin said. "We know we're not going to score a whole lot of goals so we have to bare down defensively and win games this way."  

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