NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league has "already promised the NHL Seattle group that the city will be awarded an All-Star Game" after the team begins play at the renovated KeyArena in '21, according to Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. Bettman added that Seattle "will likely get to stage either an entry or expansion draft before that." Bettman: "We've promised an All-Star Game to Seattle within seven years of playing. It doesn't mean we're going to wait seven years." Baker notes the NHL Seattle group has also "asked the league to stage an outdoor game." Bettman said that the rainy weather "could be an issue with that" and -- without ruling anything out -- seemed "cool to the idea of holding it under the retractable open-air roof at T-Mobile Park." NHL Seattle President & CEO Tod Leiweke said that his group "plans to put out a computer portal within 60 days where about 33,000 season-ticket deposit holders will get a detailed look at the timeline of how things with the team -- including its name choice -- are expected to progress" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/10). The AP's Tim Booth noted the NHL Seattle team "still doesn't have a name or color scheme." Bettman said that the NHL will "mostly stay out of the selection process, aside from working with the Seattle franchise in colors, trademarks and other logistical parts of the expansion name." Leiweke said that the goal is to "have a name announced" by the middle of '19 (AP, 1/9).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
Risk consulting firm Aon is "adding to the momentum LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan is starting to build in his quest to narrow the gender pay gap" with the announcement of its new "season-long risk-reward competition" that will award the winner $1M, according to Randall Mell of GOLFCHANNEL.com. Aon, which is sponsoring a similar challenge on the PGA Tour, "stepped up" and "offered the exact same deal for LPGA pros." Aon’s Risk Reward Challenge "comes on the heels of CME Group’s announcement" in November that it will offer a $1.5M first-place check to the winner of its LPGA event next year, a "payout greater than the winner’s check in 33 of the PGA Tour’s 47 events." Whan said, “We have work to do at the LPGA, to make sure we are delivering equal viewership and equal benefits and everything else. I’m the first guy to admit we aren’t there, but when companies step up and make this kind of statement, it’s not only good for the game and my athletes, it’s good for the future of girls who are watching us and dreaming about this.” Mell noted LPGA and PGA Tour pros "will compete to see who can best play the most strategically challenging holes across their schedules." The player on each tour who "navigates the designated risk-reward holes with the best cumulative score" will take home $1M at season’s end. LPGA pros are playing for a record $70M in official prize money this season, but the PGA Tour is "playing for more" than $340M (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 1/9).
BIG DAY FOR EQUALITY: Golfer Lizette Salas said the Aon deal is "definitely huge, not only for women's golf but women in general." Salas: "I feel like equality is important" (ESPN.com, 1/9). Whan said, "To say it was pretty easy to get the players' attention with a million-dollar win would be an understatement. It's an exciting event." He added, "We're really proud of the fact that they're also doing the same with the PGA Tour at the exact same time in the exact same way with the exact same payout so this is a great statement about not only the current situation with the game, but how men and women are being treated the same way in this opportunity" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/9).
This year's Indianapolis 500 "will pay special tribute" to Mario Andretti and the 50th anniversary of his only Indy 500 win in '69, according to Paul Reinhard of the Allentown MORNING CALL. Andretti's 50th anniversary celebration will include a "commemorative logo that will be used on the cover of the race program, on special merchandise and other places to celebrate the anniversary," and the "coveted bronze badges that have long served as credentials that allow garage and pit lane access will feature Andretti." Beginning May 1, the IMS Museum "will feature a special Andretti section devoted to his entire career." Because Andretti is "still so involved in IndyCar Series racing," he will "be around IMS almost all of May" (Allentown MORNING CALL, 1/10).
NAME GAME: IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said that he "hopes to make a formal announcement" about a new series title sponsor "before February’s scheduled test" at Austin's Circuit of the Americas. Miles said, "I want it on the cars and the fire suits if at all possible for the test. We also want the new sponsor to be involved in a new app and that takes time.” NTT Data reportedly is in talks as a potential replacement for Verizon (AP, 1/9).
GOING DOWN UNDER: IndyCar has said that it could race at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast of Australia in February '20, and Miles said that initial talks with organizers had been "promising." MOTORSPORT.com's David Malsher noted IndyCar has been "cautious in speaking about its attempts to secure an international race recently, and has traditionally avoided firm deadlines." Miles' comments are therefore a "departure from its recent strategy." IndyCar last raced at Surfers Paradise in '08 for an "end of season non-championship event," which ran from '91-'07 as a" round of CART and Champ Car" (MOTORSPORT.com, 1/10).
SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT: In Indianapolis, VanTryon & Benbow note IndyCar's new partnership with NBC for the '19 season "won’t change that fans in Indianapolis will have to be at the Indy 500 to see it live." Miles said the long-standing policy of blacking out the race on local TV "hasn’t changed" and the series is "not really re-evaluating that" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/10).