Gary Bettman Winter Classic Postgame

Thursday, 01.01.2009 / 8:48 PM / Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009

By NHL Public Relations

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN:  First of all, happy and healthy new year to all of you here today.  And thank you for sharing the holiday with us.  I don't have any announcements.  I'm not prepared to say where we're going to do this next.  Although today was a fun, fun day.  It was a terrific event, and I have a lot of thank you’s.  First and foremost, the Detroit Red Wings for agreeing to participate; the Blackhawks for agreeing to participate as well, and for being great hosts and great partners in helping us arrange this.
    This event, I think, is another great step for the Chicago Blackhawks franchise and the dramatic reconnection that they've had with their fans over the last years.  It's very special to see.
    I want to thank the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field.  This unique special place, 95 years old, has had its share of great moments, and we'd like to think that today is up there with those great moments.  It was a very special day for us in large part because of where we were.  So thank you to the Cubs and the staff here at Wrigley Field as well.
    And finally, the City of Chicago.  Had a chance to chat with Mayor Daley.  I hope the Olympic bid is successful, because there's no doubt that this is a great sports town, and the fans here are terrific.  And to our fans here in Chicago, those that are Blackhawk fans and those that traveled from far away places, somebody from Newfoundland caught me on the concourse, said he came in just for the event.  There were obviously a number of Red Wing fans here.  It was just all in all a terrific day.
    So a healthy and happy new year to everyone and thank you for joining us.
Q.  You had the most goals that you've had in a Winter Classic, so you had the best game.  I would assume you'd agree with that.  How do you improve on this or was this pretty close to perfect?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN:  In terms of the logistics of the event, I think one of the reasons we got a, quote, better game, is a combination of two things.  One, weather conditions.
    If you think back to Edmonton, it was really cold.  I didn't even put my gloves on today.  But for those of you who were in Edmonton remember, it was 20 below, and really cold.
    And last year, I think, the snow had an impact, although it didn't result in any complaints and the teams competed and competed hard.  I think the weather conditions were ideal.  So that was number one.
    Number two, the ice was really good.  It was probably better than it is in some of our rinks.  That was a function of two things.  One, we had last year's experience, and we brought our own equipment.
    The truck that was chronicled driving around North America was a truck we purchased, and we have our own outdoor rink system to refrigerate, so that's part of it.
    And secondly, we had more time than we did last year in Buffalo.  When we did our download last year in Buffalo, Dan Craig at our staff meeting when we reviewed everything told me we made our deadline for finishing construction of the rink by three hours.
    And for those of you who remember the weather in Buffalo leading up to that event, we cut it too close.  Being in a baseball stadium gives us an advantage of more time, and, with the benefit of more time, we were able to do a much better job constructing the rink.  And I think that played into it as well.  And it was nice.
    I talked about the weather.  Cloudiness was good too.  A little snow flurry wouldn't have hurt for the atmosphere, but it was all good.

Q.  In your constant endeavors to make a bigger footprint down here in the States, has the importance of this game gone beyond what you thought it might have been when you guys started down this road a couple of years ago?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN:  No.  This is what we hoped it would be.  We're seeing a few things.  One   and it's not just in the United States.  I think it's in Canada, too.  People shouldn't lose sight of the fact that 240,000 people signed up for the lottery to get a handful of a thousand tickets.  So there's great interest.  That was both in Canada and United States.  Sponsors have gravitated to this.  Bridgestone, Honda, McDonald's, all of our sponsors, including some of the new ones, in a tough environment.
    We've sold a number of sponsorships in the last three or four months leading up to this event.  This event activates very well, because it's really special.  It's unique in the way that it takes the game back to its roots.  It's unique in the way the players react to it, because it's so special to be there on the ice.
    It's unique that families come out with the players and the organizations and skate on practice day.  And so in terms of what this event represents, it's not something you can do every week.  It's not something that I think you can do many, many times a year.
    But it's something that we know can be a special part of our game if we do it right.  And I think that's what it represents.

Q.  Gary, where do you go forward from here?  We keep hearing about how many markets really want to host something like this.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN:  That happens to be true.  That's one of those elements of speculation that actually is borne out by fact.  We have lots of expressions of I thought.  I have no doubt that after today's event the number will be increased and those that have already expressed their interest will reinforce it.
    A lot has been said over the last six months about John McDonough' persistence, and I'm sure there will be others who will be equally persistent going forward.
    I have no idea where we're going next.  We haven't given it any thought.  I never like to look ahead.  I like to get through these one at a time, debrief, look at what we can improve, and there's always   I can't think of anything right now   but there's always things that we'll look operationally to do even better next time.  And then we'll look at the candidates and make some sort of judgment.
    It won't be a perfect science, but hopefully when we make the decision it will turn out like this to be a good decision.
    Again, thank you all for being here.  We'll now turn it over to the real stars of the show, and happy new year.