EDMONTON — Even as commissioner Gary Bettman revelled in the NHL’s newest arena, he had his mind on his next rehabilitation project: Calgary.
Bettman was in Edmonton to tour the new Rogers Place arena ahead of the Oilers game against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. It was the first time Bettman was seeing Rogers Place in person after facilitating a deal between the City of Edmonton and Oilers owner Daryl Katz that led to the construction of the $480 million arena, which opened up in time for this season.
He was quick to answer when asked if he would be working towards assisting Calgary in building a replacement for the Flames’ Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I hope it will be the case,” he said. “Calgary obviously needs a new arena and hopefully this arena and this complex is inspirational.”
Bettman himself was clearly impressed with Rogers Place and the Ice District, the surrounding entertainment district that is still under construction. He spoke in glowing terms about the facilities and what they’re doing for the City of Edmonton.
“This arena is nothing short of phenomenal,” said Bettman. “I was intimately involved with Daryl Katz and the mayor of Edmonton as this was on the drawing board and I knew there was a great vision for what this arena would be and what the (accompanying under-construction entertainment region) Ice District, but seeing the arena finished is nothing short of phenomenal.
Bettman added: “I can’t say enough good things about it. This has been, and will continue to be transformational for Edmonton for decades to come. It’s very exciting and rewarding to see.”
Bettman said it has also been pleasant to see the Oilers blossom in their new home.
“It’s a bit of fun to see the team perform better than it has in the last few years in the first year in its new home,” he said. “Maybe some people would say there is a connection between the two.”
The Oilers’ push for a playoff spot this season after 10 years without post-season play has been just one of several improved performances from across the league that has caught Bettman’s eye.
“If the playoffs opened today, seven teams that weren’t in the playoffs last year would be in this year,” he said. “Everybody was suggesting that there was nothing but doom and gloom for the Canadian teams in the NHL last year, lo and behold, if the playoffs started now, five of the seven teams would be in. That is what you get year-to-year when you have the incredible competitive balance that we do.”
With the new Rogers Place in Edmonton, it is natural to look towards the possibility of hosting the NHL Draft and All-Star games in the near future in Alberta’s capital.
“I believe we should have those events here, but I would like to see the entire Ice District completed (first),” he said. “When we show off Edmonton and the Ice District to the world, I would like it to be done. Depending on the pace of construction, we would be thrilled to bring our league events here, particularly with this new building.”