Excitement brewing for outdoor event

(CP) — Toronto Marlies centre Nazem Kadri was on hand Wednesday for the announcement of the American Hockey League’s Outdoor Classic. The trouble is, he might not be around to take part in the big game.

Kadri joined officials from the AHL, Marlies and the Hamilton Bulldogs to announce that the 2012 Steeltown Showdown will take place Jan. 21 at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

As one of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top prospects, there’s a very real possibility he could be in the NHL by then.

"I kind of want to be in (the outdoor game) and I kind of don’t at the same time," said Kadri, 21, who has one assist in three games with the big club this season. "This is the first time I’ve had the chance to participate in an event like this."

Kadri, who grew up in London, Ont., had three goals and nine assist in 29 games with the Leafs last season.

"As a kid you’re always on ponds and in the backyard playing outside, but never an organized event," he added. "It’s definitely something I’m pretty excited about."

The AHL’s Outdoor Classic is being billed as a 13-day celebration in which the outdoor rink will be available for public use in the days leading up to the official events — an alumni-celebrity game on the Friday, followed by a regular-season matchup between the Marlies and the Bulldogs on the Saturday.

Organizers are hoping more than 22,000 fans (which would set the AHL record for an outdoor game) will fill the football stadium that is usually home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The Marlies are currently first in the Western Conference’s North Division, while the Bulldogs — an AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens — sit last.

The AHL is filled with players in a similar situation to Kadri, and officials — including Leafs general manager Brian Burke — hope the Outdoor Classic will showcase the league’s talent to a broader audience.

"I believe in the league as a great step in the development of players and I think it’s a great product and I really think if people paid more attention to it, they’d see that these are special hockey players," Burke said. "It’s, I think, as good hockey as anywhere outside of the NHL."

Burke said the Leafs have let the NHL know they would like to host an outdoor game, and hope to get one by the team’s centennial in 2017.

There are risks, of course, to playing outside. Namely, the weather — rainstorms or blizzards.

Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer first approached the AHL with the idea after his family attended last year’s NHL Heritage Classic in Calgary.

"Every time there’s an outdoor game there’s a risk to be taken," he said. "And I’m willing to take that risk because of the end product. If it works out, it’s going to be a fantastic event."

Tickets go on sale to the general public Saturday and range in price from $29.50 to $89.50. A ticket gets you into both the alumni game and post-game concert on the Friday as well as the main showcase the following day.