Bettman defends outdoor game plan, addresses relocation speculation

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Since its inception, the Winter Classic has quickly become the biggest regular season event on the NHL calender. The NHL will expand upon that with the Stadium Series and Heritage Classic, bringing the total number of outdoor NHL games in 2014 to six.

That’s led to concerns that the concept of an outdoor game might grow stale, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman thinks otherwise.

“First of all, it’s six games out of twelve hundred and thirty regular season games,” Bettman said, according to LA Kings Insider. “Two, when you go to one of these games, if you haven’t been to one and you see what’s here, the reaction of the fans, the intensity, the emotion, the excitement is off the charts, and what we’re hearing from our fans and from our clubs and from the markets in which we play is they can’t get enough of these.”

Bettman also pointed out that franchises don’t want to have to wait a decade or more between outdoor games, not to mention the teams that haven’t gotten an opportunity to participate in one yet. That includes the contest between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 25. If all goes well in that game, then it could be the first of many outdoor contests in nontraditional hockey markets.

Of course, that’s not the only hot-button issue in the NHL right now. There’s also been growing speculation about the possibility that the league will expand in the near future. Two strong candidates seem to be Seattle and Quebec City.

“It’s great to know that there’s lots of interest in having teams in places where there aren’t,” Bettman said. “But as we stand here today, it’s nothing we’re pursuing right now in any sort of organized way.”

Markham has also been brought up as a potential site for relocation in the future as there is a push to build an NHL-caliber arena there. But could the Toronto Maple Leafs theoretically veto Markham getting a team? Bettman said it would come down to a majority vote.