Gary Bettman: 2016 Winter Classic At Gillette Stadium ‘Is Going To Be Great’

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BOSTON — The outdoor game schedule for the 2014-15 NHL season has concluded, and focus is already shifted to next year’s slate of games.

The highlight will be the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens taking their legendary rivalry to Gillette Stadium on New Year’s Day for the 2016 Winter Classic. It’s the perfect matchup for the league’s marquee regular-season event.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in Boston on Tuesday for the Bruins-Canucks game at TD Garden and noted the Bruins will be the first team to host the Winter Classic twice.

“The reaction has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Bettman said. “You can debate the national ratings, which no matter how they move up or down have been strong, but the fact of the matter is you go to one of these games in person, you see what it does to a fan base to a market. It’s incredible. Washington DC, on New Year’s Day, was nothing short of phenomenal. I think there were 20,000 people at the fan fest at nine o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day. That’s a night people are out late the night before. …”

The league put on two outdoor games this season —  the Winter Classic between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals, as well as a Stadium Series game featuring the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks at Levi’s Stadium.

By the end of the 2015-16 campaign, the majority of the league’s teams will have played in at least one outdoor game. The Bruins will be one of eight teams to participate in a Winter Classic, Stadium Series or Heritage Classic game on multiple occasions.

“Next year, as you know, we’re going to do three (outdoor games),” Bettman said. “One (at Gillette Stadium), one in Minnesota, and one in Denver. And we’re looking forward to them, and frankly, our clubs keep telling us they can’t get enough. The teams who haven’t participated, I think when we get through next season 21 of the 30 clubs will have participated.

“I know a lot of people are looking forward to playing at Gillette. Fenway was great, Gillette is going to be great. Having the Bruins and the Canadiens — I think they’ve played each other more than they’ve played any other team. It’s a great rivalry, and if it’s about 28 degrees and snowing, it will set a picture perfect night.”

Thumbnail photo via Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports Images

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