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NHL's Collins on state of Classic, potential future sites

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins praised the city of Philadelphia, the Flyers and the Phillies, for helping the League with such a successful build out for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

"It's been fantastic," Collins said Saturday afternoon during an impromptu interview session in the press box prior to the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game at Citizens Bank Park. "The Flyers, they're great, and they have a great relationship with the Phillies. The Phillies organization has been great. They don't do a lot of these events, so you really have to tip your hat to them to let us come in and do it. And, you know, the market has been great. The market is alive."

Collins admitted it's not ideal for the NHL to have what he called "the dead day" on New Year's Day in between Saturday's Alumni Game and the Winter Classic game on Jan. 2 (1 p.m. ET NBC, CBC, RDS), but he said he also believes it works in the favor of the fans.

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"It's kind of nice in that it stretches the event over a couple of days and gives more fans the ability to come out and touch it and feel it," Collins said.

Beyond Philadelphia, Collins touched on two markets that could one day get a Winter Classic game -- New York and Detroit.

Collins said the NHL has looked into venues in and around the New York area, including Yankee Stadium. However, the Yankees home ballpark won't be available to the NHL until at least 2014 due to a prior commitment to host the Pinstripe Bowl that expires after the 2013 game.

"We looked at Citi Field," Collins said. "We've looked out at Met Life (Stadium). We've looked at the Yale Bowl. We've talked about West Point. There are a lot of really great venues in the New York area. Yankee Stadium obviously is a special place and we really can't get in there for the next couple of years."

As for Detroit, Collins said the League has talked in general terms with the Red Wings and owners Mike and Marian Ilitch about hosting a Winter Classic, but the talks have not reached the formal stages.

"Obviously they've played in Chicago as the visiting team so they have an experience with the event and understand how they can use it in Detroit to do what they want to do in terms of getting a new arena built," Collins said.

Asked if playing a game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is a possibility, Collins said it's likely the League and the Red Wings would investigate possibilities for hosting a game in downtown Detroit first.

The Ilitch family also owns the Detroit Tigers and Comerica Park in downtown Detroit.

"I think for the Red Wings, downtown Detroit in general has been a big investment for the Ilitches," Collins said.

Collins also touched on a few other topics, including the possibility of NBC agreeing to welcome a Canadian team to the Winter Classic. He said it has not yet been discussed, but it's also not out of the realm of possibility.

"There were strong feelings as we were building this event that (NBC's) metrics were driving the ratings," Collins said. "That was important to them and obviously was important to us too. But, I think the event is beginning to grow now. They're buying into something we're building together, which is a celebration of hockey. If we could figure out the right matchup, maybe it would work; but we haven't talked about any of that yet."

There still isn't a deal in place with HBO to do another "24/7" series with next year's Winter Classic teams, but Collins said the League is definitely interested in being partners with HBO for a third consecutive year.

"We've been doing it on a year-to-year basis," he said. "They have a new management team coming in now, but I think it has been great for us and it has been great for them, too. So, hopefully, we'll be able to figure it out, because we'd like to go forward."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
 
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