LOS ANGELES – The NHL will not get the Guinness world record for hockey attendance despite packing Michigan Stadium for the Winter Classic, a league source told Yahoo Sports on Friday night.
The league sold 105,491 tickets for the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings on New Year’s Day – enough to break the record of 104,173, set when Michigan State played Michigan at the Big House in 2010.
The stands were essentially full. But the margin was thin, and the NHL announced only the number of tickets sold because it could not complete an accurate count. Cold, snowy weather made traveling treacherous. Fans were still entering the stadium as late as the second period. Ticket-takers stopped scanning stubs.
The NHL had to agree to a preapproved accounting method with Guinness, and it chose a barcoded ticketing system. Guinness had an official adjudicator on site, Alex Angert, who said he could count only fans whose tickets were scanned, plus media and officials who came only to watch the game.
Officially, the league hasn’t given up hope.
Guinness officials could not be reached for comment Friday night. But the source said privately the league had let it go.
TORONTO – First, the good news. Steven Stamkos is going to be OK. Surgery went well Tuesday, and the doctors are “confident he will make a 100-percent recovery,” Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said.
Yzerman spoke to Stamkos briefly Monday night after he suffered a gruesome injury – crashing into a goal post while back-checking against the Boston Bruins and suffering a broken right tibia.
“He said, ‘You know I’ll come back stronger than ever,’ ” Yzerman said.
Now, the bad news. No one knows when that will be. Yzerman said he had no timeframe Tuesday afternoon. He expected to have a better idea Tuesday night after gathering more information, but he expected whatever range he was given to be broad.TSN’s Bob McKenzie said the “unofficial prognosis” for Stamkos was three months.
“Knowing him and being young, he’ll be on the shorter end of the rehab process,” Yzerman said. “But …”
But will Stamkos be ready to play at the highest level in February?
“Right now, obviously we’d hope that he would be healthy for the Olympics,” Yzerman said. “But I have no idea at this stage.”
TORONTO – Nail Yakupov might be open to a trade, but the Edmonton Oilers aren’t.
Coach Dallas Eakins made that clear to Yakupov and the media recently after trade rumors surfaced, and general manager Craig MacTavish reiterated that Tuesday after Yakupov’s agent, Hall of Famer Igor Larionov, told ESPN.com Yakupov would be willing to move to any team if the Oilers were unhappy with him.
“There’s nothing changed from our perspective on Yak,” MacTavish said after the NHL GMs meeting at the league office in Toronto. “The only thing I will say is that adversity, in my mind, is something that helps spur development. Yak’s facing a little bit of adversity, but there aren’t too many players of that age that haven’t. That’s really all I have to say about it.”
Larionov plans to travel to Edmonton this week to watch a couple of games, and he hopes to meet with Eakins.
Does Larionov have a point at all, in terms of Yakupov needing to play more to develop?
CHICAGO – The alfresco NHL is officially returning to Chicago. The League announced Wednesday that the Pittsburgh Penguins will play the Chicago Blackhawks outdoors March 1, 2014, at Soldier Field at 8 p.m. (Ticket information is here.)
“We had a great experience with Wrigley,” NHL chief operating officer John Collins said, referring to the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. “The ability to bring the Penguins into Solider Field, another one of those iconic venues in Chicago, I think is just going to create an awful lot of enthusiasm and sets up to be just a fantastic event for us.”
But there’s more, and there’s more to it.
The NHL has already announced the Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium.
Though the NHL has never staged more than two outdoor games in one season before, it has reasons to stage six next season – and it goes beyond high demand among teams and fans. The League wants to go hard in its first full season after the lockout. It wants to capitalize on the hoopla leading up to the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
DETROIT – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman continues to insist that the league is not exploring the relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes and there are multiple parties that could buy the team. In fact, he said Sunday that action is hotter than ever before.
“There seems to be more interest at this particular point in time than we’ve seen throughout the process,” Bettman said Sunday.
Of course, this is the same commissioner who scorned speculation that the Atlanta Thrashers would relocate – right up until the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets. Of course, this is the same NHL that has owned the Coyotes, covered their losses and failed to sell them for years. And of course, just because the action is hotter than before doesn’t mean it will be hot enough for a deal.
But give Bettman a few things: As a lawyer, he is precise with his language. He is difficult to pin down, and he is persistent.
“We’re not planning on moving Phoenix as we stand here today,” Bettman said.
As we stand here today …
Is any decision imminent?
“No,” Bettman said. “When it becomes imminent, we’ll tell you. We apparently aren’t operating on the same time frame that a lot of [reporters] are.”
In a successful way …
DETROIT – The NHL is not only considering more outdoor games. It is considering more overseas games. Chief operating officer John Collins referred Sunday to a “European business plan” and ideas ranging from resurrecting the World Cup to starting something like a champions league.
But first the NHL has to reach a deal to go to the Sochi Olympics, which are less than a year away now. There remain several open issues between the NHL, the NHL Players’ Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee. The four organizations will meet this week.
“We’ve got to get to it sooner rather than later,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, “because doing next year’s schedule is obviously impacted by whether or not we go to the Olympics.”
A primary issue appears to be insurance – who will pay to cover the contracts of NHLers putting their bodies at risk. But it goes beyond that. It includes branding and media rights for the NHL, access to venues for NHL officials and families, and transportation to and from Sochi. Bettman would not provide detail of how much progress has been made so far.
DETROIT – The NHL isn’t satisfied with the return of the Winter Classic – not even a rescheduled match-up between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, expected to draw a record crowd of more than 110,000 to Michigan Stadium on New Year’s Day.
The League wants more. It thinks the fans want more. And so it could hold multiple outdoor games in the United States as soon as next season, raising revenues and the sport’s profile in more markets.
“It’s not necessarily a new conversation,” NHL chief operating officer John Collins said after a Winter Classic news conference at Joe Louis Arena. “We’ve been looking at this and talking about it for a while. But I think now we’re looking at it real hard.”
The Fourth Period reported the NHL is close to a deal for a game featuring the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium. Player agent Allan Walsh tweeted the deal was done and the game likely would take place on Hockey Day in America.
“There are people who say you’ll dilute what is a good, special thing,” Collins said. “No one would be more concerned about not screwing up a good thing than we would be.”
TORONTO – First, he called it “Groundhog Day.” Later, he called it “another Groundhog Day.”
NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell has been to many meetings of the league’s general managers. They talk about the same issues. They make slow progress.
After a seven-hour meeting Wednesday, there were three concrete ideas: Heightened awareness of goaltender interference by referees on shootouts; video review to see if the puck stops in shootouts; and, perhaps, expanding video review to include four-minute high-sticking penalties in the future. There were three other ideas that could be implemented soon but aren’t certain. The rest will have to wait until Gary Bettman sees his shadow or something.
The three with potential:
• Hybrid icing: The GMs recommended it. The rule would whistle icing plays dead unless the offensive player is winning the race to the puck, preserving the race but protecting defensemen from dangerous hits. The rule was tested in the American Hockey League during the lockout.
“That would be an interesting grievance to an impartial judge,” Campbell said. “We’re trying to protect the players.”
Problem is, every goalie is different.
As for the rest …
TORONTO – Is the NHL Players’ Association ready to support a grandfathered visor rule?
The union at least will ask its members what they think. If they are in favor, the rule likely would go from the competition committee, to the NHL Board of Governors and into the book.
But we’ll see.
“We’re definitely going to look at talking to the guys about grandfathering them in,” said Mathieu Schneider, the special assistant to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, at the NHL general managers’ meeting. “We’d probably do some type of poll.”
The NHL has been in favor of mandatory visors or at least a grandfathered rule, and the NHLPA has encouraged its members to wear visors. But the league cannot force the players to wear visors without their consent, and the last time the NHLPA polled its members, they were heavily in favor of personal choice over a grandfathered rule.
If a grandfathered rule is introduced, players entering the NHL would be required to wear a visor the same way they were a lower levels. Those already in the league would keep personal choice.
Schneider’s take on other topics at the GM meeting:
• The GMs also talked about cheating on faceoffs and using them as a delay tactic.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Corey Perry said he had seen the replay a couple of times. He can only hope NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety see it the same way.
“I was committed to the hit,” Perry said Tuesday night after getting tossed for drilling Jason Zucker in the Anaheim Ducks’ 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild. “It’s one of those things. I didn’t change my path of direction. I was committed. I tried to let up. It’s hard. It happens so fast. It’s unfortunate.”
Did he intend to hit Zucker in the head?
“No,” Perry said. “I don’t go out there looking to hurt guys. That’s not the way I am. That’s not me as a person. It is what it is.”
It was ugly.
The puck caromed off the right-wing boards in the Anaheim zone. Zucker threw the puck back up the boards toward the blue line, and he kept looking to his right as he curled to the left.