The following are excerpts from the Monday, National Hockey League call with commissioner Gary Bettman leading into the start of the season. We have included the portions of the press conference that refer to the announcement of Lake Tahoe hosting a pair of games. The games will be played on the Edgewood Golf Course property, down by the 16th-18th hole, and figure to provide some incredible vistas. The notes were compiled by ACES editor Dennis Miller.
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s media availability with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
Following opening remarks from the Commissioner, we will take as many questions as we can in the time we have.
GARY BETTMAN: Welcome, everyone. Happy New Year. I hope this finds you all and your loved ones safe and healthy.
We are extraordinarily excited to be getting ready to start the season on Wednesday. Obviously, there are some new aspects for this season that we have decided we needed to do in order to get back up and running and play a competitive season with integrity leading into the playoffs and deal with the pandemic that COVID-19 has brought us.
This is a common refrain that you’ve heard from me in the past, particularly over the summer: Health and safety will be paramount in every decision that we make. We will be guided by our medical people and by the authorities at all levels, particularly with regard to health in all of the jurisdictions in which we play.
In order for us to get through the season, we understand that there is an element of risk, that COVID-19 may impact one or more games. We also understand, as we have throughout, that in order to accomplish our goal, we’re going to need to be flexible and agile in how we deal with whatever we’re confronted with. We are, again, prepared to do that.
I have a few announcements before Bill, and I take your questions.
When we do take questions, other NHL senior executives will be available to answer them, as well. They will all be accessible in addition to me and Bill.
In terms of announcements, while it’s been rumored, let me confirm that we will be playing two outdoor games on February 20th and 21st at Lake Tahoe. The game on February 20th, Saturday, will involve Vegas and Colorado, and is being sponsored by Bridgestone. The game on the 21st of February, between Boston and Philadelphia, is sponsored by Honda.
This is the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe, and we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to put on a major event, even though we’re not going to be able to have fans. If you look at the big picture, the setting is going to be spectacular for us to be outdoors.
Again, we’re grateful to Honda and Bridgestone and to the four participating teams.
GARY BETTMAN: We’ll go ahead with questions.
Question: Mr. Commissioner, how did y’all end up landing on the decision of playing at Lake Tahoe? Were there other options on the table when considering places to play the outdoor games at? If so, what places did Tahoe beat out?
GARY BETTMAN: I’m not going to answer the last part. But we’re thrilled to be coming to Tahoe. We were looking a picturesque, magnificent place with a lake and mountains that are snow-covered.
It had to have a location where we could put a rink where you could get that visual, which obviously is important for the television picture we’re going to convey, and all the other pictures on social media, everywhere else. It needed to have a resort and our hotel facilities that could accommodate our needs, that could have fairly easy access from a major airport.
Lake Tahoe fit the bill. We’re thrilled to be going there. I plan on being there, but we’re not going to be having fans there obviously. That’s the point of having a major event that will give us a spectacular visual, have a fun opportunity for the players to once again play outdoors, which they tell us they love.
Tahoe fit the bill. Steve Mayer, do you want to add?
STEVE MAYER: No, I think you said it really well. We went to Tahoe, a very small group, were blown away by the magnificent setting that it presents, the blank canvas that it presents for us, as Gary pointed out. It’s hosted major events before. The golf event, our friends at NBC are extremely familiar with how that operation went. We felt confidently, especially in the short timeframe, that we’ll be able to produce a world class event. Tahoe will be a great host.
So, yeah, it was a pretty easy decision based on how wonderful everybody there has been to us and how open-armed they’ve been and everything we can do to make this a great event.
Question: A lot of fans are curious was to why San Jose, closest in proximity to Lake Tahoe, why the Sharks weren’t selected for one of those games. Any explanation for why they weren’t involved?
GARY BETTMAN: We picked, as we discussed about Lake Tahoe, a beautiful, scenic visual for a national television audience. We think we’ve created two nationally compelling matchups.
Having said that, we have heard from the Sharks. They’ve asked us to think about, and they would think about, whether or not after we finish the weekend events, maybe they play a game for local television. That’s not something that we’re in a position to focus on right now. We’re more focused on getting the season up and running.
I’m sure the Sharks would have wanted to participate. Frankly, if we were dealing with a game where there was live attendance, if we were looking to fill the stadium as we did with Levi Stadium a couple years back, they may well be considered and as well picked.
For the circumstances we were addressing, we think we’ve got four terrific teams giving us two great matchups.