The challenge with the NHL's Stadium Series is that "fairly or unfairly, they'll be compared to the Winter Classic, which is an incredibly high bar to reach," according to Craig Custance of ESPN.com. A total of six outdoor games will be held, which is an "ambitious plan and one that builds on the momentum the league has right now in its highly successful return from a lockout." The NHL has to "be creative in the United States to generate interest in a highly competitive sports landscape, and these games do just that." But "not without possible repercussions, like cutting into the hype that always builds around the main event: the Winter Classic on New Year's Day." Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who was with the Capitals when they played in the '11 Winter Classic, said, "I really believe that the NHL and their marketing people have done, in the last five years, an unbelievably good job. I've got to believe that they've got a theory and a reason behind it." NHL COO John Collins said that he "understands the risks, but the reward of holding an event like an outdoor NHL game that has a huge impact makes it worth it." Of all the games announced and set to be announced, the Ducks-Kings game in L.A. "has the potential to make the biggest impact." Boudreau said of the weather, "If it cooperates and you've got a sunny night in California -- blue skies, Dodger Stadium -- I mean, the positive ramifications are great." But Custance noted as "cool as an outdoor game in California is," the buzz around it has been "put on hold." It is "understandable since this is the time of year for playoff hockey, but it's also a sign of just how hard it's going to be to capture the imagination of hockey fans nationally with so many outdoor games being offered next season" (ESPN.com, 5/7).
WISHING UPON A STAR? In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel reported it would not be surprising if in "about one year the Dallas Stars announce they will play a home game at Cowboys Stadium." Stars President & CEO Jim Lites yesterday said that it is a "concept that he has kicked around and believes can happen." Lites: "We could do it at the Cotton Bowl, but Cowboys Stadium makes more sense because of the cache of the building. You would do it in January or February, and open the roof. You can turn down the temperature of the ice to zero degrees. ... It's seldom humid at that time of year but it does rain." He added that the amount of planning "would be akin to hosting an NHL All-Star game, and would require several months of detailed work" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 5/7).
The Connecticut House yesterday “approved a bill to legalize and regulate MMA, including establishing medical and safety standards for professional bouts in the Bridgeport and Hartford arenas,” according to Ken Dixon of the CONNECTICUT POST. The vote came “over the complaints of lawmakers who warned about the primitive violence of hand-to-hand combat.” Lifting the ban could create "hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional tax revenue per year for fight nights” at Webster Bank Arena and XL Center. State Rep. Stephen Dargan said that a 5% tax on MMA bouts “could give the state $350,000 for a single fight night at the XL Center.” However, the bill “may again face stiff opposition in the Senate.” Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment VP/Operations Charlie Dowd, whose company operates Webster Bank Arena, said that the market “would determine the number of bouts hosted at the nearly 10,000-seat venue” (CONNECTICUT POST, 5/8). State House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey said, “We’re one of only two states in the country that does not regulate the sport, so I think we’re very much out of step [with] where the rest of the country is on this.” Connecticut State Democrats Communications Dir Adam Joseph said members of the group “continue to have concerns regarding the violent nature of mixed martial arts. They are, however, open to discussing the issue” (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/8).
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem yesterday said that changes in the date of the World Golf HOF induction ceremony and selection process are being "debated in light of the controversy involving the election of Colin Montgomerie and Fred Couples this year, and the fact that no male Hall of Fame members or pros in The Players Championship field came to the induction ceremony Monday night." In Jacksonville, Garry Smits notes the absence of the HOFers from the ceremony was "so noticeable that members of the audience were tweeting their disapproval." The ceremony has been "held the Monday of Players Championship week for the last three years." Prior to that, it was "held in November but concerns arose about media coverage and fan attention during football season" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 5/8).
CONVERTING THE MASSES, SORT OF: In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes MLS is "focused on converting non-MLS soccer fans, not nonsoccer sports fans." Commissioner Don Garber said, "One-hundred percent focus is converting global soccer fans to MLS fans. When that happens, and the market is bigger, then we can go after the (nonsoccer) sports fan." Garber "cites World Cup television ratings among the factors that say America has enough soccer fans already to grow MLS into a much more popular league" (K.C. STAR, 5/8).
THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM? NWSL Portland Thorns F Alex Morgan appeared on NBC Sports Network's "The Crossover" yesterday and compared the new league to the two previous failed pro women's soccer ventures. Morgan said, “This one will work and I think that because the U.S. Soccer Federation, Canadian, and Mexican Federations have come together and relieved owners by paying their national teams salaries for the players on those teams.” She added, “I think that there’s budgets and salary caps and I think there’s just more commitment all around” ("The Crossover," NBCSN, 5/7).
INSIDE OUT: In Phoenix, Richard Obert noted AFL average attendance is the “lowest it has been since 1989 when only five teams each played one home game in a short season.” Data from ArenaFan.com shows that the 14 teams “are averaging 7,793 fans, down from last season when there were 17 teams that averaged 7,841.” This is the lowest attendance average since '89 when the AFL “averaged 5,705 fans” (AZCENTRAL.com, 5/6).