The Carolina Hurricanes welcomed Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL to their home venue, the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC. Bettman spent a full day with the Hurricanes’ management team and owner, Tom Dundon. On the agenda was checking out the condition of the arena, meeting with some of the Hurricanes players and the media and enjoying some hockey.
Bettman and his entourage also made a walking tour of Carter-Finley Stadium, home of the NC State University Wolfpack football team. The stadium is on the list of possible Stadium Series outdoor hockey events promoted by the NHL. At day’s end, prior to watching the Los Angeles Kings versus the Hurricanes, Bettman met with the media and said that the ‘Canes have essentially started their playoffs due to their current position and the importance of each of the remaining 20 games.
Bettman: “The Team is in the Playoffs”
Bettman spoke about the fantastic run the Hurricanes have been on since the first of the year.
There’s a pretty good vibe here…Since the New Year began, [the team] I think the second-best record in the league behind St. Louis. And, if the playoffs began today, people would be pretty excited. So, there are a lot of meaningful games. I guess for all intents and purposes the Hurricanes are really in the playoffs right now in terms of how important every game is.
Of course, Bettman is correct, the adage, “Every game is a must-win” is especially true for the Hurricanes from now to the end of the season. The Hurricanes’ schedule is not easy, with teams like the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators lurking. And they must also deal with Metropolitan Division opponents the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers twice each before the season ends.
In other words, the Hurricanes have a tough task before them if they want to continue to contend for the playoffs. As of this writing, they occupy the third spot in the Metro, although tied with the Penguins with 74 points. Each and every night will be significant, yet this group of young players, led by their team captain Justin Williams, has not seemed afraid of the moment. Williams has three Stanley Cup Final victories on his resume, including one with the Hurricanes in 2006. He has the respect of his teammates and will do his absolute best to lead them into the playoffs.
Hurricanes’ Game One of 20 is a Blast
The Hurricanes got started on the right track with a sound victory over the Kings, 6-1. Those who have appreciated the quality goaltending that Jonathan Quick has displayed throughout his career were feeling just a bit uncomfortable watching him get hammered goal after goal.
TURBO TIME! pic.twitter.com/NwNJHsBfWh
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 27, 2019
Yes, Hurricanes fans loved the offensive barrage. But Quick, who has played at an elite level most of his career, was hung out to dry by his defense, and really looked a step slow on many of the goals he let through. A Hurricanes squad from just a year or so ago might not have known how to take advantage of the situation. But the likes of Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teräväinen and a slew of others know what to do with the puck. The Hurricanes ran Quick in the third period and that is something that hasn’t happened much.
Bettman: Stadium Series a Possibility for Hurricanes
Bettman fielded several questions about the possibility of a Stadium Series event being held in Raleigh, NC. Bettman said, “I took a walking tour of the [Carter-Finley] stadium and I’m not here to make an announcement today, but yes, we are taking it very seriously and looking at the possibility.” Bettman also said, “But I want to be clear about something, obviously, if we’re considering the possibility of playing a game across the street, we couldn’t and wouldn’t without NC State’s consent because it is their home, and they would have to agree to share it with us.”
Bettman said that the NHL’s events staff have told him that the stadium would work well as a venue for a Stadium Series event. He was asked about next year as a possibility for the outdoor game being played in Raleigh, and said, “Next season we’ve already announced our outdoor venues.” When an attempt was made to pin him down on a specific time frame, Bettman would not get specific, saying only, “You’re trying to pin me down and get me to make a promise and I respect the fact that you’re trying, but you’re not going to get me there.”
The specifics that Bettman did give were that he and his events staff like Carter-Finley Stadium as a possible location for a future outdoor game as part of the NHL Stadium Series and that NC State University would have to be agreeable to the NHL using the stadium.
Bettman on His Most Notable Achievement
I asked Bettman what he considered to be his high mark, what he is most proud of so far as commissioner. At first, he replied that he doesn’t consider those types of questions. Bettman said, “I don’t do that. I look forward. I don’t look back. People are going to have to make their own judgments as to what my high or low or in-between marks were. I am more focused on all the things we have to do going forward.”
Bettman then did elaborate with an answer saying,
I am pleased with the fact that the game on the ice is exciting, entertaining and competitive. We have extraordinary competitive balance. Our fan base has never been larger. Hockey’s growing at all levels, not just the NHL level. But that’s not me, that’s a testament to all the people associated with the games.
For someone not wanting to name an achievement that he is proud of, Bettman is pleased with what is happening during his tenure as NHL commissioner.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.