The NHL's bid to play hockey on Parliament Hill may have fallen through, but come December, you could be performing a triple lutz on the iced-over lawn of Canada's seat of government.
Canadian Heritage is partnering with the Ottawa Senators and the Bell Capital Cup to build the first ever NHL-sized skating rink on the Hill as part of the closing events for Canada's 150 celebrations. All events will be free of charge, although tickets may be issued to manage crowds.
The rink is expected to be open from Dec. 7 to 31, although one of the key events will be Canada 150 Skating Day on Dec. 10, a sesquicentennial celebration that "will also include events in 200 community arenas from coast to coast to coast," according to a new release from the heritage department.
More than public skating
Details on exactly what activities will be offered on the Hill in December are expected to become available over the next few weeks, but the annual Christmas Lights Across Canada — complete with a multimedia show, music and pyrotechnics — ceremony is already scheduled for Dec. 7, the day the rink is to open.
Andrew Campbell, Canadian Heritage's senior executive director of Canada 150, said stands with seating for 1,000 will line the Wellington Street side of the Hill, while an accessible viewing platform will be erected on the east side. There will be benches for people to put on their skates.
Visitors will also see another very Canadian sight on the Hill — a Zamboni to maintain the refrigerated ice.
"We're as excited as everybody about what a great moment this can be skating under the stars and looking up at Parliament Hill — or during the day and the Peace Tower right in front of you — will be a cool moment," Campbell said Thursday.
He said officials are still working on the logistics for security and access to the Hill, and are finalizing the cost of mounting the new activities.
There will also be an Ottawa Senators practice and Senators alumni skating events, the NHL team confirmed Thursday.
And it sounds as if at least some youngsters will get a chance to play hockey on the Hill.
"The opportunity to play outdoors on Parliament Hill as part of Canada 150 will provide a pure and unique Canadian family hockey experience for the participating children and teams," according to a statement from Todd White, the honorary chair of the Bell Capital Cup.
And the department plans to close out Canada 150 on Parliament Hill on New Year's Eve.
NHL outdoor game moved to Lansdowne
Until late last year, the NHL was lobbying to host an outdoor game between the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens on the Hill, but the logistics — and the protocols that govern the events that can happen there — proved impossible to surmount.
Mounting an NHL game on the Hill would have required at least four months to construct a temporary arena for 30,000 spectators, and there were concerns that the work would impede parliamentary business, public access and security.
In addition, an NHL game would have broken a long list of rules around what can take place on the Hill. Organized sporting events, charging admission, commercial advertising, and selling food and alcohol on the Hill are all prohibited.
Instead, the two teams will face off on Dec. 16 at Lansdowne's TD Place Stadium for Ottawa's first outdoor NHL game.