MINNEAPOLIS - There's no reason for the NHL not to keep holding outdoor games each season, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday.
Bettman made a promotional appearance at the University of Minnesota football stadium. That's where the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks will play outside Feb. 21 as part of the NHL's Stadium Series games, which were started in 2014 to supplement the annual Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
Bettman said fans, communities and teams "cannot get enough" of the outdoor games and that "they're far from being overdone or oversaturated." After several years of lobbying, the Wild finally landed one for 2016.
"I told the guys as soon as it was announced, it's something they'll appreciate and remember forever," said left wing Thomas Vanek, who has played in outdoor games previously with the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders.
Vanek played in college at Minnesota at Mariucci Arena, right across the street from TCF Bank Stadium where the game this winter will be held. The Gophers have played a game outside there, but the Wild have yet to host one.
The NHL has staged 14 outdoor games in the last seven years.
"I have no doubt the game will be sold out and that it will be a big deal," Bettman said.
Ticket prices for the game will range from $109 to $449.
There'll be an alumni game held the day before the Blackhawks-Wild game featuring former players from both the Chicago and Minnesota NHL franchises, including the old North Stars. Former North Stars Brian Bellows, Dino Ciccarelli and Mike Modano were among the prominent names announced Wednesday for the Minnesota roster. The Chicago roster will include Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick and Denis Savard among others.
Also of note:
—Bettman said his deposition in New York last week lasted nearly eight hours, as part of the concussion lawsuit brought by former players. They've accused the league of having the knowledge and resources to better prevent head trauma, failed to properly warn players of such risks, and promoted violent play that led to their injuries.
"We believe the lawsuit is without merit, but I'm not here today to debate in a public forum something that's before the courts," Bettman said.
—Vanek had surgery in June to repair a double hernia on his left groin muscle, but he said he'll be at full strength by training camp in September.