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Bettman enjoys prime-time scene at Heinz Field

by Bob Condor
PITTSBURGH -- The NHL's decision to move back the start time of Saturday's 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic squarely put it into prime time -- and placed it squarely into speculation the League might possibly make it a permanent night-time game on Jan. 1. While meeting the media after a 3-1 Capitals' victory, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman answered a couple of questions asked on the subject. 

Q:  I know it's not the way you intended to have this game played at 8:00.  Did it in some ways work out for the better with the way the scene was tonight?

Bettman:  The scene was spectacular. Somebody in one of the clubs was telling me that as they approached the stadium and they saw the lights on, it was just a spectacular sight. They got chills down their spine. It was one of the more amazing things they've been associated with in all their time in hockey.

I'm not sure. All things being equal, we would have chosen a day in advance to move things around. But that's part of the flexibility and the decision-making that we had to go through in terms of dealing with it.

I'm very comfortable with the decision that we made yesterday afternoon, because I really didn't want to inconvenience the fans, and I, frankly, didn't want to have the players sitting around trying to anticipate what was going to happen.

They had a pretty normal, routine day, the players did this year, in terms of going first skate and getting ready for an evening game. It may be, just like with the game in Buffalo, the elements had an influence, and when you look back on this event, it will have its own legend, its own story line because of what we saw tonight.

And the players, you saw how they were playing.  There were 60 some odd shots on goal.  They were into it.  And I think playing in front of so many people has something to do with that.

Q: There has been talk in the last day and a half of perhaps the move to a prime time, the move to 8:00 p.m. is going to be a good thing for this game in the future.  What factors will you take into account when perhaps making the decision to make this thing a prime time game?

Bettman: That's not something we considered until yesterday. That's something we'll have to discuss with our network broadcast partners, obviously. And I think it's also an issue of what makes sense at the appropriate time.
I can't tell you how good or bad this was. My guess is it was good until we ultimately see the ratings. But take into account when we see the ratings, we were playing at a time that up until 5:00 yesterday afternoon wasn't the time we had planned on. All the promotion was geared to a 1:00 o'clock in-the-afternoon start.

The best answer to your question will be an analysis of the ratings when they ultimately come in.
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