Could an outdoor NHL game be coming to Columbus, Ohio? NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seemed to hint that it could be a possibility on Tuesday night, according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. While the Blue Jackets’ efforts to host an outdoor game have continually been spurned, Bettman suggested that the league has considered the city for a future contest.
“It’s obvious that the (Blue Jackets are) competitive, that they’re playing exciting hockey and the fans are reacting in positive ways,” Bettman said. “It’s even at the point internally — we’re not there yet — (but) we’ve even started focusing on the possibility of an outdoor game. We view Columbus as a great success story.”
The organization is clearly ready for a bigger stage, especially after they made consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in team history. They also hosted a successful All Star weekend back in 2015. The team would push to hold the game at Ohio Stadium, the home of the Ohio State football team. Portzline notes that it’s uncertain if the school would be willing to host, although the 100,000-plus capacity would certainly be enticing to Bettman.
“Other than six or seven teams, every (NHL) team has participated (in an outdoor game),” Bettman said. “We look for a mix. Part of it is to assure we get a national (TV) rating. Part of it is to ensure that when we play in a 70,000-seat facility there’s no doubt it will be sold out. We try to be opportunistic. It’s a function of market. It’s a function of team history and fan base, and it’s a function of performance at the time.”
Bettman cautioned that the league hasn’t taken any tangible steps in bringing an outdoor game to Columbus, but it is the first time the commissioner has openly spoken about the topic.
The Bruins and Blackhawks will participate in the “Winter Classic” at Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana on New Years Day. The Penguins and Flyers will later face off in February at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly.