News  

 

Hall of Fame preparing as if its preseason game will be played

The Hall of Fame Game, the NFL's traditional preseason opener, is scheduled to be played Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio. And, as of now, that's still the plan.

League spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed as much to NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora on Friday night, and a Hall of Fame official said Saturday that most of the legwork for the game is done and the folks in Canton are ready.

On NFL Network:
Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, live from Canton, Ohio,
on Saturday, Aug. 6,
at 4 p.m. ET

"We only know what we know," said Joe Horrigan, the Hall's vice president of communications and exhibits. "We had not heard it was canceled (as the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday night, citing two sources), so we contacted Greg Aiello through email ourselves, and he replied that it was not true. Everything, as far as we know, is the same as it was. ... The lockout's continuing, but no games are canceled, and that's the information we have.

"That's led us to continue to prepare as if the game is going to be played. Our preparation, at this point, is pretty much complete. There's nothing to suggest it won't be played, so we're probably more anxious than anything else."

If NFL owners ratify a labor deal with players at their Thursday meeting in Atlanta, training camps could open as soon as one week after that. With a July 28 start date, the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams -- this year's Hall of Fame Game participants -- would have 10 days to ready themselves for Canton.

An executive from one of the teams said Saturday that readiness to play would be "a function of when we start," but emphasized that the team is prepared for all possible outcomes.

"We understand the situation is in flux, and we're preparing to play until we're told otherwise," the executive said. "We're excited to play, but we're also respectful of this process."

The other side of this situation is the effect the labor uncertainty has had on the Hall of Fame -- and the blow it would take if the game is canceled.

With the caveat that last year was an exceptional one -- the enshrinement of Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith drew a big crowd -- Horrigan said ticket sales for this year's Hall of Fame Game currently stand about 50 percent behind the 2010 pace, with some 8,000 sold.

The 10-day Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival generally draws around 700,000 visitors, Horrigan said, and has an economic impact of $30 million on the region. People usually buy festival packages and would have the price of the game ticket refunded if it's canceled.

The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, headlined this year by NFL Network analysts Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk, will go on as scheduled Aug. 6, as will all other associated events, but the lockout has taken its toll.

"The trickle-down effect is just the confusion," Horrigan said. "If the world talks about the Hall of Fame Game being canceled, then if it's not played, a lot of people assume nothing else is happening. And that's not the case. It's the last day of a 10-day festival.

"We would lose a three-hour window of prime-time TV, with an audience of 10 million, to promote the Hall of Fame," Horrigan added. "That's one area where we can annually promote the Hall."

Horrigan said the league has been supportive through the process and also hopes for the best-case scenario, which is that the game will be played and becomes a celebration of football's return.

If not, Horrigan will understand.

"The bad news is that we're in a lockout still," said Horrigan, who mentioned that Hall visitor business hasn't been down during the lockout. "The good news is, through these summer months, the anticipation has been that it will be resolved. In the past, we haven't had such a positive atmosphere or outlook around these things. So we're hopeful."

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15