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Commissioner: NHL Winter Classic should come to Minnesota

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • October 27, 2011 - 9:02 AM

Good morning, the Wild and Ducks skate later this morning, so I'll be back later on with an update. You can also follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib.

The only real news expected this morning revolves around Guillaume Latendresse and whether or not he will return to the lineup after missing Saturday's game with a groin injury. Coach Mike Yeo said yesterday he's available but also said he's anxious to see the top 2 lines that practiced together the previous three days and was hesitant to tinker with the third line.

So we'll see. Latendresse said this groin injury is different than the ailments that caused him to undergo surgery on five different problems 13 months ago, but the Wild may choose to be cautious and hold him out until the weekend.

I'd think if he says he's healthy though, you'd want Latendresse in the lineup. But the Wild also doesn't want whatever's ailing Latendresse to become a seasonlong problem.

If you didn't pick up a paper, I wrote today on Mikko Koivu, who hasn't scored in 17 games dating to last season and has three assists this year. That article can be read here.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed down to the RiverCentre, where the Lester Patrick Award was being given to honorees Mark Johnson, Jeff Sauer, Bob Pulford and Tony Rossi. It was a special evening for those four.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in town for the ceremony, and he will be heading to Pittsburgh today to announce the NHL Draft heading there for 2012.

After his press scrum, Bettman sat down with me for an exclusive interview. We discussed myriad subjects, from the expiring collective bargaining agreement, to the work Brendan Shanahan is doing with NHL discipline, to the tragic offseason that included the loss of Derek Boogaard, to realignment to the Winter Classic.

For a partial Q and A of my interview with Bettman, pick up Sunday's newspaper to read my weekly Sunday Insider.

To give you a little taste, regarding the Winter Classic, Bettman talked about how Wild owner Craig Leipold continues to actively covet bringing a Winter Classic to Minnesota. Bettman said, "Without giving you a timetable, at some point it would be crazy if we didn't have a Winter Classic here."

However, and this is something I have harped on the past few years, until the Wild is a top-notch, marketable team, it will be very difficult for the Wild to to sell Minnesota's rich hockey tradition alone to the league as the sole reason to deliver Minnesota an outdoor game.

Washington/Pittsburgh; Rangers/Philly, these are marquee teams with marquee stars. HBO can swoop in and do an entertaining 24/7 series that the NHL can be quite confident will capture the attention and enthusiasm of hockey fans everywhere.

The Wild? It's not there yet. It's trying by acquiring players like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. But I'm not quite sure the NHL believes right now the Wild is 24/7-worthy, so to speak. Maybe once some of these young stars like Mikael Granlund and Johan Larsson and Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin are infused, and maybe once the Wild isn't a team that every single season is merely fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot, maybe then it'll be awarded a Winter Classic.

But the league isn't just going to give Minnesota a game because it's cold and people love playing outdoor hockey here and the Wild came up with the brilliant marketing phrase 12 years ago, "State of Hockey."

There needs to be a sexiness.

Bettman admitted, "An important element of doing the Winter Classic is obviously the national TV ratings, so we have to be comfortable that whatever matchup we're going to do will do a good number."

Lastly, I wanted to make certain I got this up here: If you want to pay your respects, here is the funeral and visitation information for Gordy Lee, the beloved NHL off-ice official and former referee who passed away Sunday:

This afternoon, 3:00 PM until 8:00 PM visitation

Washburn-McReavy
200 Central Avenue SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Friday, October 28, 2011

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM visitation at the church

10:00 AM - Mass

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
One Lourdes Place,
Minneapolis, MN 55414

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