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The '13-14 NHL season will include six outdoor games, and the league is "responding to complaints about watering down the product with a simple message: it’s giving fans what they want," according to Stephen Whyno of the CP. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday formally announced two games scheduled at Yankee Stadium -- Rangers-Devils on Jan. 26 and Rangers-Islanders Jan. 29. He said, "If you’re looking at it on a national basis, obviously we’re doing more. But for teams and markets that want to host this (event), for fans that want to attend, we can’t do enough of them." Whyno noted the NHL’s Stadium Series "might not get as much attention" as the Winter Classic, but they still are "can’t-miss events." Bettman: "This is an incomparable event and what happens is fans get connected to the game in ways they never imagined, we get new fans who, for the first time, will come and be a part of this. This is a fan-oriented, fan-driven event, and that’s why we’re doing so many games so we can bring it to more fans." Going for six outdoor games in a span of just over two months is part of what NHL COO John Collins called a "pretty unique" season thanks to the '14 Sochi Games. Planning the games "had a lot to do with timing." The Ducks play the Kings at Dodger Stadium "the night before the Grammy Awards," and the Yankee Stadium games "take place during the lead-up" to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium." It also is "not a coincidence" that two outdoor games, Penguins-Blackhawks at Soldier Field and the Senators-Canucks Heritage Classic at BC Place "take place the week after players return from Sochi" (CP, 8/8). Bettman said, "I don’t think we’re overdoing them at all. We’re actually responding to the incredible interest and demand we’re getting." Bettman suggested that there "could be even more in the future." He said, "We’ll take a deep breath when all six are over and evaluate what made sense, what we can better and whether or not we can even do more" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/9).
VENUE TEAMSJan. 1 Michigan Stadium Maple Leafs-Red WingsJan. 25 Dodger Stadium Ducks-KingsJan. 26 Yankee Stadium Rangers-DevilsJan. 29 Yankee Stadium Rangers-IslandersMar. 1 Soldier Field Penguins-BlackhawksMar. 2 BC Place Senators-Canucks
APPLE OF THEIR EYE: Bettman acknowledged that since the league first introduced its Winter Classic on New Year's Day in '08, Yankee Stadium "has been in both the league's and the Yankees' thoughts." He said, "It's no secret that people have urged us to play at Yankee Stadium since the moment it became clear that our outdoor games were such special, unique and fun events." On Long Island, Arthur Staple notes Yankee Stadium "will host the Pinstripe Bowl just after New Year's." The "only way to make these Stadium Series games work was to position them before Super Bowl XLVIII ... and move them away from the Jan. 1 date" (NEWSDAY, 8/9).
REWRITING HISTORY: In Newark, Rich Chere noted Yankees COO Lonn Trost on Thursday "credited former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley for making outdoor hockey games at Yankee Stadium possible." He referred to "the original Devils owner as 'Jim' McMullen rather than John and recalled the birth of the Devils in 1972 instead of 10 years later." Trost had Bettman, Devils President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello, NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and "several others looking around and chuckling as he told stories completely unrelated" to the announcement of the Yankee Stadium games (NJ.com, 8/8).
Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban had some strong words for MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday's episode of NBC's "The Tonight Show," saying MLB team owners "don't want me to own" a franchise and Selig "does not want anybody to stand up to him." Host Jay Leno asked Cuban for his reaction to Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez' suspension for his ties to the Biogenesis clinic. Cuban said, "It's disgraceful what Major League Baseball is trying to do to him. It's not that he doesn't deserve to be suspended, he does. But they have policies in place: first-time offender 50 games, second time 100. Two hundred-fourteen games? That's personal." He added the penalty was "something totally outside the rules." Cuban said following the Rodriguez situation, there is "no chance I'm going to be able to buy a team." Cuban: "It's basically become Bud Selig's mafia. He runs it the way he wants to run it." Cuban was a bidder for the Rangers when they were being sold at auction in '10, and he said, "I sat in there with my good, hard-earned money trying to bid, and they did everything possible to keep me from buying the team. They had lawyers in there trying to change the rules, they had people trying to put up more money. It was horrible." Leno asked why MLB tried to prevent him from becoming an owner. Cuban replied, "It's not like he called me and said, 'You're a jerk.' I don't know. The way I run the Mavericks is I try to do what's best for the fans, I try to do what's best for the team, I try to do what's best for the league. If I disagree with the commissioner every now and then, I'm not going to back down. Obviously, Bud Selig does not like to be tested. He does not want anybody to stand up to him." Cuban later added of Rodriguez' suspension, "This is more about Bud Selig trying to flex his muscles and say, 'Look, if you don't kiss the ring I'm going to take care of you and kick you out of Major League Baseball,' and I think that's wrong" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 8/8).