The Wild has landed a stadium series game. It will take place next February (perhaps the third weekend), and as I mentioned on yesterday’s startribune.com chat, the team’s hope is to turn it into a weeklong celebration of hockey.
Besides the outdoor game, which will feature the Wild and Chicago Blackhawks according to NBC Sports Network’s (and TSN Insider) Bob McKenzie, and accompanying alumni game, the Wild’s will attempt to have Hockey Day Minnesota the weekend before. It also will weigh and measure bringing the American Hockey League-affiliate Iowa Wild in for a game.
As of earlier today, the NHL was still negotiating with Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium to determine which venue would host the stadium-series game and alumni game. There is a chance the venue won’t be announced this weekend, although the hope is it will be finalized by then (when the NHL originally announced the past Winter Classic between Washington and Chicago, the venue also wasn’t finalized and thus wasn’t announced).
The pluses? TCF Bank Stadium could hold more fans but Target Field has a lot more premium seating. One obstacle with Target Field is there are added costs the NHL would have to incur like replacing the sod and winterizing the stadium. The figures were being tossed around today between the league and Target Field.
As has been reported many times, Craig Leipold’s ultimate goal is to host the actual Winter Classic. As has been reported many times, the NHL has thus far told the Wild owner that he needs to be patient. Leipold has been so adamant about his desire to host, he declined the chance for the Wild to be the visitor against Washington.
A few years ago, Leipold also declined the stadium series games because he wanted the main event. However, Leipold has since changed his mind and informed Commissioner Gary Bettman awhile ago that he would be willing to host a stadium series game as long as it helps his eventual objective – to host a Winter Classic.
The Stadium Series game and alumni game is a league-run event. The NHL has to rent out the venue and then make the Wild whole one Xcel Energy Center gate. In other words, based on history, the Wild and NHL will determine how much revenue the Wild normally takes in for a weekend February game in terms of ticket price, food, beverage and merchandise.
The league pays the Wild that money and all incremental revenue goes to the league (hockey-related revenue, which is split amongst the players and all 30 teams).
Once the venue is nailed down, the Wild will then begin crunching numbers to see if it can hold Hockey Day Minnesota at the same venue the weekend before. In order to do that, the Wild would have to rent out the venue and sublease the rink from the NHL.
As usual, the hope would be to have high school games and potentially a Gophers game on the outdoor rink.
As for the Iowa Wild, the Minnesota Wild would also want to make sure that was cost effective based on how much it would cost to rent the venue, sublease the ice and charge for tickets.
So there’s still a lot of moving parts that can’t even start to be materialized until the league sets the venue in stone, which again as of a few hours ago was not finalized (this blog was originally going up later tonight).
As for the stadium-series game, the NHL originally wanted the Wild to play the Dallas Stars. The Wild requested the Blackhawks. According to MacKenzie’s report, the Wild got the Blackhawks. It will be Chicago's fourth outdoor game, Minnesota's first.
In my sit-down in November with Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner said “there’s an outdoor game in Minnesota’s future. I think the chances are good for a Stadium Series game next year.”
There is only one Stadium Series game this season — San Jose hosting Los Angeles in Santa Clara, Calif. — after four last year.
There are many factors why there is only one game this season, but one reason is because of a lawsuit against the Philadelphia Flyers last year.
“I mean, it’s crazy when you think about it, but basically they got sued because they removed a regular-season game from the season-ticket package and didn’t make it available to the fans on the basis that they’d be able to buy it at [Wells Fargo Center],” Daly said. “There was no judgment, but there was a settlement.”
So to protect itself, the league sent new language for teams to include in their season-ticket packages in the event they got an outdoor game. However, a number of teams had already sent their renewal notices out, including the Wild. Apparently, the Sharks had not.
Having only one stadium-series game coupled with the declining Canadian dollar are factors in a salary cap that’s expected to only reach $71 million next season.