Noticeably absent from the Winter Classic proceedings was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. He did show up on game day and addressed the media at the conclusion of the game.
Here is the transcript from his presser...
COMMISSIONER GARY BETTMAN: Good evening, everyone. And happy New Year. I want to start out by thanking the Penguins and the Rooney family, the Steelers, and Heinz Field, all the organizations combined. And the City of Pittsburgh did a terrific job in helping us conduct the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
I also want to thank the Capitals for their participation, and both clubs, particularly the players, for the way they've conducted themselves on and off the ice, and particularly in the lead?up period that has been well documented over the last few weeks.
We had an entertaining game. The crowd was terrific. Obviously it started precipitating during the second period and into the third.
Ice conditions held up throughout. We were in constant communication, both hockey operations on and off the field. I was in constant communication with Colin Campbell. The officials and the players were comfortable with the play and the conditions that they were playing under.
And all in all, I think it was a fun evening and an entertaining event. This is reality hockey when you take it outdoors. It becomes a little unpredictable. We played in snow and rain in Buffalo. I think it drizzled a little bit in Chicago or Boston. And all in all it was a good event and we were very pleased with what we saw.
I also want to make a point of thanking all of our partners on the business side, particularly our broadcast partner at NBC for showing the flexibility that was necessary to deal with the weather issues that we confronted through last night and into today. All in all, we're pleased with the event, obviously.
Q. I know it's not the way you intended to have this game played at 8:00. Did it in some ways work out for the better with the way the scene was tonight?
GARY BETTMAN: The scene was spectacular. Somebody in one of the clubs was telling me that as they approached the stadium and they saw the lights on, it was just a spectacular sight. They got chills down their spine. It was one of the more amazing things they've been associated with in all their time in hockey.
I'm not sure. All things being equal, we would have chosen a day in advance to move things around. But that's part of the flexibility and the decision?making that we had to go through in terms of dealing with it.
I'm very comfortable with the decision that we made yesterday afternoon, because I really didn't want to inconvenience the fans, and I, frankly, didn't want to have the players sitting around trying to anticipate what was going to happen.
They had a pretty normal, routine day, the players did this year, in terms of going first skate and getting ready for an evening game. It may be, just like with the game in Buffalo, the elements had an influence, and when you look back on this event, it will have its own legend, its own story line because of what we saw tonight.
And the players, you saw how they were playing. There were 60 some odd shots on goal. They were into it. And I think playing in front of so many people has something to do with that.
Q. I think at some point people will ask if the integrity of the game was compromised at all given the amount of rain that fell at various points in this game, how will you respond to that kind of criticism?
GARY BETTMAN: It was the same conditions for both teams. And as I said, we were at every stoppage, Colin, Dan Craig were in communication with the officials and both teams, and nobody was complaining about it.
And you know, while perhaps not perfectly, the puck was moving pretty well. There were a lot of shots on goal.
And I've heard ice complaints when we're indoors in a lot of places as well. I think we were fine, just fine.
Q. With the success of the Winter Classic, it's great, and as you say, every one is unique in itself. Is there any thought being given ?? because this is really becoming the centerpiece of the NHL. Now you've got the All-Star game. Any thought maybe given to moving that like to an end?of?season event, like to be in conjunction with the awards show or anything like that?
GARY BETTMAN: No, we're not planning on moving the All Star game. And while this has become a terrific, if not spectacular, event, you feel the atmosphere.
People outside in the street fair were telling me that this was like the Super Bowl. It's as big a deal. This is a regular season game. I'll take our Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final any day of the week.
But when you can get this kind of response to a regular season game, it's truly something special, truly something unique, and we're very proud of what has developed on New Year's Day in a relatively short period of time.
But in the final analysis, as big an event as this is, it still comes down to who wins the Cup.
Q. I've heard some talk in the last day and a half of perhaps the move to a prime time, the move to 8:00 p.m. is going to be a good thing for this game in the future. What factors will you take into account when perhaps making the decision to make this thing a prime time game?
GARY BETTMAN: That's not something we considered until yesterday. That's something we'll have to discuss with our network broadcast partners, obviously. And I think it's also an issue of what makes sense at the appropriate time.
I can't tell you how good or bad this was. My guess is it was good until we ultimately see the ratings. But take into account when we see the ratings, we were playing at a time that up until 5:00 yesterday afternoon wasn't the time we had planned on. All the promotion was geared to a 1:00 o'clock in?the?afternoon start.
The best answer to your question will be an analysis of the ratings when they ultimately come in.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass