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Bettman, Stars celebrate growth of hockey in Dallas

'Definitely a possibility' city could host Winter Classic, commissioner says

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

DALLAS -- For Gary Bettman, it was a chance to reflect.

The Dallas Stars, who are hosting the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center this weekend, celebrated their 25th anniversary season in 2017-18. Bettman also celebrated his 25th anniversary as NHL Commissioner this season

"I'm fortunate that I've had incredible support by the best owners in pro sports, in terms of cohesiveness in terms of focusing on the game. In terms of being committed to the communities in which our franchises are located," Commissioner Bettman said at Coffee with the Commissioner at the Dallas Regional Chamber Conference Center on Friday. "More than the revenues, just the fact that more and more people follow hockey now at all levels, more and more young people have the opportunity to grow the game. And while revenues and attendance through connectivity, through media [are] at an all-time high, the fact is we're also involved in our communities and we can do things to make a difference in people's lives."

 

[RELATED: Complete NHL Draft coverage]

 

The first round of the draft is Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS).

Commissioner Bettman joined Stars president Jim Lites and broadcaster Daryl Reaugh to discuss a variety of topics, including the growth of hockey in the Dallas area.

"When we came to Dallas in 1993, there was one sheet of ice in Dallas, in Valley Ranch. There were 125 youth and adult players in the entire Metroplex. There are now 20 sheets of ice in Dallas-Fort Worth and there are 7,000 registered skaters," Lites said. "We're proud of the the decision by the NHL to move to Dallas and the support we've had along the way through various twists and turns through ownership. From our perspective, our franchise has never been stronger, never been better, never enjoyed more support in this community than it does now."

The NHL also continues to grow. The Vegas Golden Knights enjoyed a tremendous inaugural season, winning the Pacific Division (51-24-7, 109 points) and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Washington Capitals in five games. Seattle could have a franchise ready to compete in the 2020-21 season; the earliest the Board of Governors will vote on adding Seattle would be in the fall.

"I'm not ready to make that announcement. But the fact of the matter is, we've had an enormously successful expansion in Vegas because we did it for the right reasons," Commissioner Bettman said. "The League's never been stronger, our franchises have never been stronger. With Las Vegas, it was the combination of the market, ownership and a new building, and we thought being there would make the game of hockey more visible and stronger. It's been a huge success. The fact they did what they did on the ice was unpredictable."

Dallas is also interested in hosting a Winter Classic.

"We've been out to see AT&T [Stadium], and it's something we've discussed," Commissioner Bettman said. "I'm not making an announcement, we don't have a date, but it's something that's on our radar. This is a state that's known not only for its hospitality, but for doing big events in a big way. It's something we'll continue to look at and is definitely a possibility."

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