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Archive for Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yankee Stadium game remains possibility

Issues’ still unresolved

May 18, 2008

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The idea of the Rangers closing down Yankee Stadium in November with an outdoor NHL game isn't dead, but it isn't as likely as it once was.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, in a conference call with reporters this past week, cited "a variety of issues" with the proposed game at Yankee Stadium, among them the ongoing construction of the new Yankee Stadium and what Bettman called "winterization issues." Those refer to old pipes that traditionally have gone unused after the end of the baseball season and might not support a sellout crowd for a hockey game in November.

"There are some winterization issues, because it is an older stadium," Bettman said. "As I sit here today, I don't know whether or not they can be resolved."

A Yankees spokesman did not return messages on the subject. The Rangers also had no comment.

It initially was assumed that the Rangers would play the Islanders or Devils in the proposed game, which would be nationally televised on NBC. But that local game would not be much of a ratings-grabber, so the proposal became an "Original Six" contest, with the Rangers possibly playing the Bruins or Canadiens.

A league official said that excluding the Devils and Islanders might be another reason the NHL is waffling on a Yankee Stadium game. "They don't want to upset those teams," the official said.

The other leading candidates to play host to an outdoor game are Beaver Stadium, Penn State's football home, and Chicago's Soldier Field. This past season's outdoor game, played in a driving snowstorm at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium on New Year's Day between the Penguins and Sabres, was considered a big success.

Bettman said he received a letter from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell regarding a possible Penguins-Flyers game at Beaver Stadium, which holds 107,000 fans, nearly twice as many as Yankee Stadium can hold.

"He said he's never seen the intensity of a rivalry that he's seeing now with the Penguins and Flyers," Bettman said of the two Eastern Conference finalists. "We're looking at a lot of things. I anticipate, hopefully by the time we announce the schedule in early July when we release it - historically on the day after the baseball All-Star Game - that we'll know what we're doing. But as I sit here today, other than we're planning to try to do something, we're not done yet."

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