COLUMBUS, Ohio – Addressing reporters Saturday afternoon at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, commissioner Gary Bettman zipped through a wide range of newsworthy items, spanning outdoor games, the upcoming salary cap and the much-ballyhooed 2016 World Cup in Toronto.
In the interest of dumping as much news into one blog post as possible, here’s what Bettman said:
Outdoor schedule set for 2015
The Boston Bruins will become the first NHL team to host two Winter Classics, welcoming the annual outdoor game to Gillette Stadium next New Year’s Day. The Bruins, who will face the Montreal Canadiens, previously beat the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park in 2010. Until the Capitals beat Chicago at Nationals Park this year, they were the only home team to win a Winter Classic.
“We know it’s a great sports town, it’s a great hockey town,” Bettman said. “The Bruins have a wonderful organization. And the opportunity to go back with this rivalry and play in a large stadium like Gillette, we think it’s going to be a spectacular day.”
Later that year, the Minnesota Wild will host the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium, current home to the Vikings and University of Minnesota Gophers, in a Stadium Series game on Feb. 21. Six days after that, the Colorado Avalanche welcome the Detroit Red Wings to Coors Field.
According to Bettman, the NHL wanted a Heritage Classic game played in Winnipeg but couldn’t finagle the scheduling with Investors Group Field, home of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“We were unable to agree with the Blue Bombers on a date that would make us each comfortable, so my hope is that we can schedule something for the following season,” Bettman said. “Obviously now that there’s a little more time, I don’t have any firm plans to announce, other than it’s something we’d like to do, because we very much wanted to play an outdoor game next season in Winnipeg.”
Asked about “overkill” of Chicago participating in its fourth outdoor game – and three in three seasons – and worries of leaving other franchises out, Bettman focused on the former idea.
“The fact of the matter is, some teams are more comfortable playing these games than others,” he said of the Blackhawks. “We’re happy to have them. We’re thrilled. They’re a national draw and get a great deal of attention.”
Canadian dollar affecting salary cap
Even with the Canadian dollar plummeting, currently at 80 cents to the United States’ dollar, Bettman predicted “the salary cap does not fall off a cliff.” Initial projections last December put the 2015 cap at $73 million, assuming the 5 percent increment under the CBA, but that was based on the Canadian dollar at 88 cents.
“At 82, the cap would be $72.2, and at 80 cents, the cap would be $71.7,” Bettman said. “These are not in the context of a $70 million-plus cap, dramatic numbers. Nobody can project exactly where it’s going, but the point that I’m making is you’re not going to see a dramatic difference. The cap is computed based on currency of a daily basis. It’s averaged over the season. So, as I said, even with an 80 cent Canadian dollar, we’re still looking at a cap of almost $72 million.”
Per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, television money will ensure the salary cap at least rises to $71 million. The Capitals, only $1.6 million below the current ceiling according to the now-offline CapGeek.com, have five players on the active roster who will become unrestricted free agents next summer, as well as three restricted free agents.
Tracking chips tested at All-Star Game
More on this tomorrow, but Bettman formally announced that the NHL will test a play tracking system at the All-Star skills competition and at Sunday’s All-Star game. The chips, made by the company Sportvision, will be inserted into pucks and jerseys, and can quantify data like puck and skating speed, puck trajectory and puck location.
If implemented into the regular season full-time, it would provide a massive information boon for data analysis, much like SportVU has done in the NBA.
“We’re not exactly sure where this will all take us,” Bettman said. “This is, if I can coin a phrase, in the embryonic stages of a work in progress, but ultimately we’re hoping to deliver the kind of data that will create insights and tell stories that avid and casual hockey fans will enjoy.”