Bettman Hints At More SoCal NHL Outdoor Games After Success At Dodger Stadium
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "didn't rule out a return to Southern California" for an outdoor game after Saturday's Ducks-Kings Coors Light Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium, according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. While much was made of the potential impact of warm weather, the conditions on Saturday saw a game-time temperature "within the 60-to-64 degree temperature maintained in NHL rinks" and "no wind." The "three-ring circus before the game was often excessive," but "much about this Stadium Series game was just right, making the Ducks' 3-0 victory a triumph of the spirit as much as a product of refrigeration and technology." Fans in L.A. "seem to want more outdoor games." Elliott wrote, "It was bizarre. It was wonderful. Let's do it again soon." Meanwhile, Hockey HOFer Wayne Gretzky was on hand for the pregame ceremonial puck drop, after he had recently "pulled back from promoting the game or the league" in the wake of his dispute with the NHL over the Coyotes' bankruptcy. Bettman said, "I'm not sure he ever left the fold. People have their own lives to live. But having him as a more frequent presence is very special to us" (L.A. TIMES, 1/26). In N.Y., Karen Crouse noted the crowd of 54,099 "was in full roar" when the game began. Saturday's "balmy weather notwithstanding, it was easy to get the chills." In addition to Gretzky's puck drop, the pregame ceremony included a "joint introduction" of the players by Kings announcer Bob Miller and Dodgers announcer Vin Scully. Crouse: "The beach balls and the Frisbees and the sand and the rock musicians were the side shows and the NHL, in a twist that would have been inconceivable a quarter of a century ago, was the main act" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26). Bettman said, "Being in Southern California, this may be the biggest thing that’s ever happened for hockey in terms of fans concentrating on an event" (“Ducks-Kings,” NHL Network, 1/25).
HOLLYWOOD ENDING: ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote, "It's hard to imagine Hollywood scripting a better start to the NHL's ambitious -- and oft-criticized -- series of regional outdoor games." The NHL "proved it can play with the big boys with a lead-up to the game that simply hit all the right notes." Of all the outdoor games dating back to the Oilers-Canadiens Heritage Classic in '03, this "might have been the fastest, most accurate depiction of a real NHL contest." Ducks C Saku Koivu suggested that the ice "held up surprisingly well, a sentiment echoed by most of the players." Ducks D Francois Beauchemin said the ice was "better than we all thought it would be, better than some NHL arenas" (ESPN.com, 1/25). In L.A., Lisa Dillman wrote the event was "pure Hollywood, from beginning to end, topped off by a brief fireworks display after the final buzzer" (L.A. TIMES, 1/26). ESPN’s Barry Melrose said, "It was just one of those magical moments. The ice was great, so it was a home run by the NHL. It just seems like every one of these outdoor games is better than the last one" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/26). In L.A., Chris Erskine wrote Dodger Stadium "was so rocking during this milestone event that, for a while, fans quit looking at their cellphones." Erskine: "I'm pretty convinced we're only seeing the beginning of these great outdoor binges" (L.A. TIMES, 1/26). Ducks RW Teemu Selanne said of the game, "The whole package was outstanding. The atmosphere was unbelievable. You don’t have many chances to play in front of 55,000 people in California, outdoors, when you can see the stars. It was awesome. I’m going to remember this ... and I can’t see any reason why we shouldn't do this more" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/26). ESPN L.A.'s Arash Markazi wrote, "If there was any doubt that Southern California was a serious hockey market, Saturday should have forever quieted those critics" (ESPNLA.com, 1/26).
POMP & CIRCUMSTANCE: The L.A. TIMES' Elliott writes, "The event was a roaring success, though it could have benefited from less volume on the constant, deafening music played during stoppages and less pregame activity around the rink." Elliott: "Beach volleyball and soccer and Frisbee and yoga and bands playing and street hockey? Give the NHL a minor penalty for too many men (and women) on the field." But also "give the NHL a huge win for blending technology with the right touches of sentiment" (L.A. TIMES, 1/27). In L.A., Jill Painter reported musician Paul Stanley, whose band Kiss performed prior to the game and is involved with the AFL Kiss, "was pumping $99 season tickets" for Kiss games during one of the intermissions. The "best red carpet moment" was Gretzky and former MLBer Fernando Valenzuela "meeting for the first time." Celebrities at the game included Cuba Gooding Jr., Dustin Johnson, Pat Sajak, Kerri Walsh-Jennings, Nomar Garciaparra "and so many" more (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/26). In L.A., JP Hoornstra wrote the areas surrounding the rink at Dodger Stadium featured "all sorts of shenanigans: People tossing frisbees, beach balls and footballs, skaters on roller skates, skateboarders on skateboards -- even a group of women stretching in yoga poses." The concept "was the brainchild of RK Productions, a Manhattan firm hired by the league to fill out the game-day presentation." RK Productions reps "scoured the beaches of Southern California and hired people -- actual beach bums, not actors -- to participate in the activities" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/26).
COLD ICE, WARM BEER? The L.A. DAILY NEWS' Hoornstra reported, "Since Anheuser-Busch has a partnership with Dodger Stadium, all of its taps (Budweiser, Bud Light, et al) had to be turned off for the game, which was sponsored by Coors Light." Beer was "sold by the bottle, and the extra bottles were stored in an on-site warehouse." To the "surprise of Levy Restaurants, which operates the Dodger Stadium concession stands, some beer stands on the loge level ran out of Coors Light during the first intermission." Some fans who "tried to purchase beer after the first intermission complained that the bottles brought in from the warehouse were warm." A spokesperson said that the sold-out crowd "arrived earlier than anticipated" and took "full advantage of the beer garden outside the stadium, which added to the strain on the resources" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/26).