Wild owner Craig Leipold chauffeured NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman around the Twin Cities Monday, making stops to tour TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field as Leipold continues his long-lasting pitch to land the Wild an outdoor game.
Leipold's focus had been on hosting the Winter Classic. But after being routinely passed over for the NHL's marquee outdoor game, he has said he's more willing to consider one in the so-called Stadium Series.
That's the right move, Bettman said.
“It's easier (for the Wild) to focus on that because we have more opportunity to satisfy the demand,” Bettman said. “(An outdoor game) is something that we know the club wants, that Craig wants, that the fans want, and we'll be receptive. I can't give you a date yet, or a venue, but it's something we're focused on.”
After touring the Twins' baseball stadium and Gophers football stadium, Leipold and the commissioner watched Monday's game against Calgary from Leipold's box seats at Xcel Energy Center.
For years, Leipold has been pushing for an outdoor NHL game in Minnesota. Even when Leipold and Bettman discuss unrelated topics, Leipold makes sure to bring it up.
“If that were any exaggeration, it wouldn't be by much,” Bettman said. “We talk on a regular basis, and somehow it manages to come up in almost every conversation.”
The NHL had six outdoor games this season: one in Los Angeles, one in Ann Arbor, Mich., one in Chicago, one in Vancouver, and two in New York.
On Jan. 18, Minnesota drew more than 45,000 to TCF Bank Stadium for an outdoor college game against Ohio State, and Bettman acknowledged Minnesota would be a natural fit.
“Absolutely,” he said. “The fans, the hockey environment, the weather — this is the State of Hockey after all.”
His staff would play a bigger role than he in determining a venue for an outdoor game the Wild hosted, but Bettman said he was impressed with both Target Field and the Bank.
“Both venues were very, very attractive,” he said. “I think in terms of Minnesota's infrastructure, they can be proud of both venues. Whether or not one is more suitable, or one makes more sense and the like, I need some more input.”
It was announced earlier this NHL season that the 2015 Winter Classic would be held in Washington, D.C. But the location of other Stadium Series events haven't been announced yet.
“Despite all of the discussions and the speculation over what the right number is, you can't really over do these,” Bettman said of outdoor games. “We had 375,000 people attend the six stadium games. ... It has become such a big fan favorite event, such an in-market phenomena. But we don't want to do too many because it is a national TV attraction, and logistically, I think, we pushed our organization to the limits (with six).”
So could Minnesota host one in 2015?
“I'm not making any promises, I'm not making any announcements,” Bettman said. “But we're focused on the interest.”