Bettman Happy With How Realignment Has Impacted Opening Rounds Of Playoffs
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last night said that the divisional rivalries in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs "are 'what we envisioned,' especially in terms of engagement from the fans," following the league's realignment, according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Bettman said, "Buildings are more than 100 percent full, our TV ratings nationally are up, our digital platforms and social media is up." He "pointed out that of the second-round rivalries" -- Blackhawks-Wild, Ducks-Kings, Bruins-Canadiens and Penguins-Rangers -- "nobody's traveling more than 400 miles" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 5/6).
CRAZY SCHEDULE: In N.Y., Meyers & Klein note the Rangers had "just played their sixth game in nine days, including two sets of back-to-back games, on Monday night when Coach Alain Vigneault called the team’s schedule stupid." NHLPA Communications Dir Jonathan Weatherdon said, “The playoff schedule is a bit different, as it is put together in a very quick time frame. The five games in seven nights was caused in large part by arena availability issues, but we are discussing with the NHL what can be done to avoid this happening again in future.” During the regular season, the CBA "prohibits teams from playing five games in seven nights," as two games in three nights is the "maximum allowed." Meanwhile, the MSG schedule "further complicated matters." The WNBA Liberty have a preseason game against the Sun tomorrow morning, while Billy Joel has the "fifth concert of his residency" at MSG on Friday night. The league "also had to work around" Lady Gaga concerts in Pittsburgh on Thursday and at MSG next Tuesday, as well as a Chelsea Handler comedy show in Pittsburgh on Saturday (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7). The N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said the Rangers are "getting hosed" by the schedule because "it's all about television" wanting an East Coast team on NBCSN ("Daily News Live," SNY, 5/5).
TAKE IT OUTSIDE: The STAR TRIBUNE's Russo noted while the Wild continue a "quest to host a Winter Classic," there are "plans to bring a stadium-series game to Minnesota as soon as next season." The Wild want the opponent "to be the Blackhawks, but the NHL is pushing" for the Stars. If the game happens, it "looks as if it will be played at Target Field" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 5/6). Bettman said, "We know of the interest. You know I was here looking at venues. I have nothing to announce, but we're very focused" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 5/6). Meanwhile, Bettman said that though he has "had 'lots of thoughts' about staging another outdoor game because of the success of the game played between the Kings and Ducks at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, he had no schedule to announce for future outdoor games." He did say that the league next season would "stage more than one such game but fewer than the six that were played this season" (L.A. TIMES, 5/7).