The NHL All-Star Game was held in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, and league commissioner Gary Bettman spoke about a wide range of topics in his press conference Saturday.
Bettman formally announced the outdoor schedule for next season, which includes the 2016 Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium on New Year’s Day.
Expansion also was part of Bettman’s address.
“There continues to be a lot of talk and speculation about expansion,” Bettman said. “I really have nothing new to report that I haven’t previously reported. Las Vegas is getting ready. They’re still not ready yet, but they’re getting ready to launch the season-ticket campaign. We continue to get expressions of interest from other places, including Seattle, where the mayor came to visit and we had a nice chat, but I think the building status, at least in downtown Seattle, is still uncertain at this point at best.”
When will the Las Vegas ticket drive commence? Bettman was asked if there was a timeline, and he said February is possible.
“We haven’t put hard deadlines or hard numbers,” Bettman said. “(Prospective owner) Bill Foley asked us for permission to do it so he and ultimately we could get a sense as to whether or not a market that so many people think is unique would support at the grass-roots level, if you will, a franchise. He’s going to have to make those judgments and then tell us what it is.
“My guess is the campaign will kick off at some point in February. If he’s still running the campaign next October, my guess is tickets didn’t sell so quickly, and if he’s able to get to a number that makes a lot of sense and shows a great deal of enthusiasm in two or three weeks, he and we will have a better sense of the market, and as I’ve said, and I will reiterate, we have no firm commitments. This is his request to see if he should continue chasing his dream.”
The purpose of the drive is to see if there’s enough of a season ticket base in Las Vegas for a team. Relying on tourists and casinos to buy tickets and fill the arena each game is not an ideal scenario.
— Injuries are adding up for a number of NHL teams.
The New York Islanders will be without right winger Kyle Okposo for more than a month.
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Okposo plays alongside Islanders captain John Tavares on the team’s top line and is enjoying a career season with 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) in 46 games.
The Vancouver Canucks will be without veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa for up to eight weeks.
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Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been placed on injured reserve and will miss four to six weeks with a groin injury.
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf is out “week-to-week” after suffering an upper body injury before the All-Star break, per TSN’s Mark Masters.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, who missed Sunday’s All-Star Game with a lower body injury, returned to practice Monday and appeared to be at “full strength,” per Kevin O’Donnell of FOX 13.
— The 2016 Stadium Series will include Blackhawks-Wild at TCF Bank Stadium in Minnesota and Red Wings-Avalanche at Coors Field in Colorado. Winnipeg could enter the mix in 2016-17. The matchups were formally announced Saturday.
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— In case you missed it, the World Cup of Hockey returns in September of 2016 with a new format. Here’s the list of nations/teams that will participate.
— Mike Richards reportedly was placed on waivers Monday by the Los Angeles Kings. Toronto isn’t a destination for the Ontario-born center, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.
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— Bettman also gave an update on how the current status of the Canadian dollar is impacting the upper limit of next season’s salary cap.
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— Another announcement from Bettman’s presser was that the NHL is going to use a new tracking system to collect data.
“Through our partnership with Sportvision, we are going to take advantage of the All-Star festivities to use technology to take our fans deeper into the game by embedding Sportvision chips into pucks and player jerseys,” Bettman said. “Using our digital platforms and our broadcast partners, NBC, Rogers and TVA, we will be able to showcase quantitative data, puck and skating speed, puck trajectory, puck location and other key data points behind the skating, stick handling and shooting abilities of the top players in the game.”
How will this affect advanced stats such as Corsi? Andrew Berkshire has a great breakdown at SB Nation.
Thumbnail photo via Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Players line up at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.