He stressed the term "internally," saying that it's only been mentioned within the walls of NHL headquarters, but the league's commissioner used the words "outdoor game" and "Columbus" in the same sentence Tuesday night.
Speaking with reporters at Clinton Arena for the 2018 Kraft Hockeyville USA preseason game, where the Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres played on national television in a small arena, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the Blue Jackets are on the right track.
He also broached the outdoor possibility.
"It's obvious that the team is competitive, that they're playing exciting hockey, that the fans are reacting in positive ways," Bettman said. "It's even at the point where, internally - we're not there yet - we have started focusing on the possibility of an outdoor game. So, we view Columbus as a great success story."
As the Blue Jackets have grown progressively more successful the past few years, featuring one of the NHL's youngest rosters, talk about the Blue Jackets hosting an outdoor game has increased around Central Ohio.
Fans clearly want one, with the obvious choice of venue being Ohio Stadium on Ohio State's campus, aka "The Shoe."
"I've [been] in one and they're a blast," said Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who coached the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic. "You know how I feel about the City of Columbus. I don't think we get respect. We're trying to fight for that. For us to be mentioned or involved in all those games, I think would be great for the city and great for the team and help us keep progressing."
Told there might be winterization hurdles that might need to be dealt with at that stadium, Bettman didn't sound too concerned.
"There's a big football stadium there, last time I checked," he quipped. "We've put on 24 outdoor games. I think we kind of know what's involved and we're excited to see how well Columbus is doing."
Columbus would be through the roof if the NHL were to follow through and stage a Blue Jackets regular-season game at Ohio Stadium - particularly if a certain team from That State Up North were the opponent.
That's getting too out in front of the process, of course, which Bettman made sure to point that out several times. Still, he didn't exactly back down from his initial statement. The Blue Jackets are a better team now, on and off the ice, and the possibility has been talked about.
That's often the NHL's first baby steps toward further progress on topics like this.
"We've been talking about it internally," Bettman said. "I don't know that we've done a site survey yet. I don't think so. But it's on our radar screen to go to places we haven't been. We talk about all these things all the time … we're constantly thinking about and brainstorming and hypothesizing lots of things."
Told that Blue Jackets fans and the Columbus market, in general, is hungry for an outdoor game, Bettman wasted no time replying.
"And we see that," he said. "We had a great All-Star Game [in 2015]. We see the fan reaction. We see the road games. We see the building full. These are things we keep track of, but we keep track of these things for all 31 teams - and we like what we're seeing."