When the NHL's top brass pay a visit to Nashville, the question always comes up - when will the Music City host an outdoor hockey game?
It seems the answer to that topic has shifted in recent years from no longer a matter of "if" but "when" the event will take place.
Any time NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the item, his indication remains steadfast that Nashville will inevitably host an outdoor game soon, and that was the case again on Monday. Bettman, along with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, was in town to take in a game, visit with Predators ownership, management and staff, and to hold a press conference.
"At some point, we'd like to bring an outdoor game here," Bettman said at Bridgestone Arena, prior to the Preds hosting the Maple Leafs. "If we can do it on Jan. 1, because [Nissan Stadium is] available, then that would be a good thing to do, particularly since [Nashville-based] Bridgestone is the sponsor for the Winter Classic. If the logistics of having stadium availability can't be worked out [on New Year's Day], then we'll come for a Stadium Series game, provided we're allowed to use the stadium."
Nashville's overall experience at the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Dallas was something the Predators organization had never seen before - and it only enhances the desire to do the same in their hometown.
What is no longer a question is Nashville's ability to host a League event, and do it in a way that will make the NHL want to return again and again. The 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend in Nashville is still widely regarded as the League's best All-Star Weekend ever, and the festivities that followed when the Preds made it to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final simply reaffirmed the fact that this town knows how to throw a party.
"I don't need to be convinced anymore about Nashville's capabilities," Bettman said. "This is a world-class destination, and this is a city that knows how to host major events. We love coming here, and the events we've had here have been incredibly successful. For us, it's a question really more about spreading our events out among all of our clubs. Nashville is a place that we know works and works extraordinarily well. It's a function of what the city has to offer, and there's a great fan base."
Video: Gary Bettman speaks to the media in Nashville
The matter of player and puck tracking was also discussed following an announcement made by the League in St. Louis during 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend. Starting in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, player and puck tracking is expected to be up and running in all 16 NHL arenas that host postseason games. Then, as the puck drops on the 2020-21 season, the technology is expected in all 31 NHL buildings.
From the NHL: "The technology will include 14-16 antennae installed in the arena rafters; four cameras to support the tracking functionality; one sensor placed on the shoulder pads of every player on each team; and 40 pucks manufactured with a sensor inside."
Commissioner Bettman stated in St. Louis the technology will generate 200 data points per second for the players and 2,000 data points per second for the puck.
What does this mean for fans consuming the game? You're about to be able to watch hockey in a way never seen before.
"In terms of what can it do for the League, it's added data, added information, added experience for our fans, and will be kind of at their option," Daly said of player puck tracking. "Is it something they want to do in consuming the game, want to experience in consuming the game? Certainly, it adds a new dimension to consuming NHL hockey. Our fans have responded positively to it, so it can only enhance our game presentation in a positive way."
"We find ourselves at a time, with the advances in technology, that I think sports leaders, and we have to continue to evolve," Bettman said. "And we're not changing the game. We're using the technology to ultimately bring fans closer to the game."