SBD/March 4, 2014/Events and Attractions

Bettman Tours Minnesota Facilities, Says Wild "Absolutely" Deserve Outdoor Game

Some fear the Wild may not draw a large enough TV audience for an outdoor game
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spent yesterday afternoon touring Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium with Wild Owner Craig Leipold, who continued his "lengthy effort to bring Minnesota an outdoor game," according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Bettman said, "It's something we know the club wants, that Craig wants and the fans want, and we'll be responsive. I can't give you a date or a venue yet." He added Minnesota "absolutely" deserves an outdoor game, and called both outdoor stadiums "very, very attractive." Bettman said that it is "not an exaggeration to say Leipold ends every e-mail exchange between the two hinting that he wants an outdoor game" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/4). In St. Paul, Chad Graff notes the Univ. of Minnesota on Jan. 18 "drew more than 45,000 to TCF Bank Stadium for an outdoor college game against Ohio State, and Bettman acknowledged Minnesota would be a natural fit." Other NHL execs would "play a bigger role" than Bettman in "determining a venue for an outdoor game the Wild hosted." But Bettman said that he was "impressed with both Target Field and the Bank." He added, "Whether or not one is more suitable, or one makes more sense and the like, I need some more input" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/4).

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: The STAR TRIBUNE's Russo noted there has been "a lot of chatter that one reason the Wild hasn’t gotten the Winter Classic is because NBC hasn’t felt the Wild can draw a national audience." Bettman "didn’t confirm that." However, he said of whether NBC and HBO have a say in the venues and opponents, "We consult with them in terms of getting their input as to what makes sense from a television standpoint.” Meanwhile, the NHL has "indicated the league will have fewer outdoor games next season" after staging six in '13-14. There has been "much debate that there have been too many in a short amount of time and it takes the uniqueness away." Bettman: “Despite all of the debate about what the right number is, you can’t really overdo these" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 3/3). The NHL said that more than 375,000 people "attended its six outdoor games this season, including 54,194 at Vancouver's BC Place on Sunday for the Heritage Classic." In L.A., Helene Elliott notes strong attendance is why the league scheduled six games, "even at the risk of ruining the novelty" (L.A. TIMES, 3/4). 
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