ClassicSpeak with Gary Bettman
Q: Why go back to the Penguins only three years after they played in the original Winter Classic?
A: The Penguins are an interesting and attractive team both in Pittsburgh and nationally, and the rivalry between the Pens and Caps, Sidney (Crosby) and (Alex) Ovechkin, makes for exciting and entreating story line. We thought we could do a good job with these two teams to promote it.
Q: What was attractive about Heinz Field after holding the last two Classics at baseball parks?
A: Heinz Field is a big stadium. There are almost 130 suites. It may have one of the biggest video screens in the NFL, which is important because the lower seats you don’t get to see as much. A lot of people are there for the event purpose. It won’t be the same as sitting at Consol Energy Center. At the Classic, higher up is better than lower down. We can have 75 cameras covering the game from all angles. Logistically, we got the level of support and infrastructure we needed to make this work. How we do a Classic is very site specific. We try to build year to year to make it bigger and better.
Q: You’ve talked about always believing in Pittsburgh as a market. Why did you have such faith?
A: I’ve never doubted the strength of the NHL and Penguins in Pittsburgh. It’s why we did what we did a number of years ago when the viability and very future was threatened. That belief has obviously been vindicated, if you will. Look at the attendance, sponsor support and local TV ratings, which are among the strongest in the country. There is an absolute love affair between Western Pennsylvania and the Pens. … With no due disrespect to any other team there, and everybody knows how strong the interest is in the Steelers, the Pens don’t have to apologize to anybody. They are a force. This is a team that is revered.