Twice was nice for NHL commish

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

CALGARY - Having overseen five previous outdoor games, Gary Bettman was aware of the list of concerns heading in: The weather, the ice, ticket prices, seat configuration and player safety.

However, after seeing first-hand how well the league was able to pull off yesterday’s triumph at McMahon Stadium, the NHL commissioner had every reason to be as positive about the experience as the fans were.

“Obviously, we were extraordinarily pleased with the experience,” said Bettman after the Flames’ 4-0 win in front of 41,022 spectators in a magically transformed football stadium.

“Our sponsor activation and investment in this was higher than any Winter Classic has done. From a fan standpoint and all of our media platforms, player experience and from our business partners, this was a terrific, terrific event for us.”

So, where does it go from here?

“I don’t know yet,” said Bettman. “This outdoor game was the most complex and intensive of all the ones we’ve done. We made a big investment in doing it in Calgary, and we think it paid off tremendously. The fans were spectacular and braved the elements. The ice and cold and the elements were part of the intrigue and the fun in doing this.

“We were extraordinarily pleased with the experience. But you will have to give us a little more time to figure out what comes next.”

Indications are every Canadian team except Calgary and Ottawa (due to the all-star game they’re hosting) have inquired about the possibility of hosting an outdoor game next year. League COO John Collins suggested the success of the games has been so great the NHL and its sponsors could stage four or five such events every year, prompting a debate over preserving the uniqueness of the event versus satiating the never-ending appetite to host more.

“It’s (a question) we’ve been debating internally,” Bettman said. “Some of the preliminary research we’ve seen says our fans want more of these. They don’t care how many as long as they get one.

“Obviously, you can’t do an unlimited number and we don’t want to dilute it. We thought it was important to go to a second game this year and have one in Canada.”

Suggesting there’s no place in North America the NHL couldn’t produce ice in, Bettman wanted it known the ice here wasn’t as big a problem as some suggested Saturday.

“The ice can be an issue but at no time was it dangerous,” said Bettman, aware of the chippy ice that hosted the alumni game.

“When the teams sign on to do this, they know they they’re playing outdoors. By the way,

I hear a lot of complaints about ice in places where there is a roof. So, you know, it’s ice. It’s not a diamond that’s been polished. The puck settled down after the first period pretty well. There were 70-some odd shots on goal.

“When we woke up this morning because of the intense cold here for a prolonged period, the temperature difference between the bottom and top of the ice was ten degrees. So there’s issues outside, but we monitor it.”


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