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Heritage Classic added to ambitious outdoor schedule

(Reuters) - The Vancouver Canucks will host the Ottawa Senators in a return of the Heritage Classic next season, the National Hockey League said on Wednesday, adding a sixth date to the league's ambitious schedule of outdoor games.

The Canucks will become the first NHL team to host a game in a retractable-roof facility and just the third Canadian NHL team to stage a regular-season game outdoors, following the Edmonton Oilers in 2003 and Calgary Flames in 2011.

The site, BC Place, was also the venue used for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, marking the first time the opening of a Winter Games had been staged indoors.

"With one of the world's great facilities as the setting, and one of the world's most scenic cities as the backdrop, the 2014 NHL Heritage Classic at BC Place in Vancouver will honor hockey's Canadian heritage," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "With the excitement, the entertainment, the competitiveness and the fun of this game, the Canucks and Senators will create special memories for hockey fans everywhere."

Following a bitter lockout that cut the NHL to just 48 games last season the league is betting on the outdoor series to help bring back fans and attract new ones.

The Vancouver game is the latest addition to the NHL's outdoor extravaganza, which will kick off on New Year's Day with the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The game, played at Michigan Stadium known as the 'Big House', is expected to attract a record NHL crowd of close to 110,000.

The Winter Classic, which was scrapped last year due to of the lockout, will be followed by what is being promoted as a four-game Stadium Series that kicks off on January 25 in sunny Los Angeles with the Kings hosting the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The series will also include two games at Yankee Stadium with the New York Rangers facing off against the New Jersey Devils on January 26 and the New York Islanders on January 29 in the first hockey games to be played at the iconic Major League Baseball stadium.

The series concludes March 1 when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field, home of the National Football League's Chicago Bears, followed by the Canucks and Senators on March 2.

The NHL has marketed the outdoor games with great success trading on the romanticism of the sport's outdoor roots.

The 2014 matchup between Vancouver and Ottawa recalls and celebrates some of the earliest history of the Stanley Cup.

In 1915, the Vancouver Millionaires, the first professional hockey team on the West Coast, were crowned champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association.

At the same time, in the rival league from the East, the National Hockey Association, which two years later became the National Hockey League, the Ottawa Senators were skating to a league title.

The two leagues had agreed to play a series between the champions of each league with the Stanley Cup, which was established in 1893, awarded to the victor.

The Millionaires swept a best-of-five series to claim the 1915 Stanley Cup championship.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto)

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