Nashville scores a hit as NHL All-Star host

Nashville scores a hit as NHL All-Star host
Eastern Conference player Mark Giordano (5), of the Calgary Flames, is introduced before the NHL All-Star game in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Zaleski / Associated Press)

With great concerts, warm hospitality and an outdoor Winter Park that drew crowds downtown, Nashville produced an NHL All-Star experience that won raves from all who participated.

"I think Nashville set the bar really, really high," said Metropolitan Division Coach Barry Trotz, a former coach of the Nashville Predators. "It's going to be tough for the next cities to match."


Next year the host city is Los Angeles, on Jan. 28-29, at Staples Center. The Kings sent a large delegation here to study how the Predators and the NHL staged events, leaving with positive impressions and the hope they can use the area around Staples Center and L.A. Live to duplicate the centralized feeling that was a strength here.

"They over-delivered on the performances here. It celebrated the game and the community of Nashville. Very impressive," said Kelly Cheeseman, chief operating officer of AEG Sports.

"The hospitality and experience for the fans of Nashville was second to none. It really delivered a great event for the fans here, and they seemed to have great time. Well deserved.

"In the end, people walked away and had a great weekend of hockey and tipped their hats to Nashville. It should grow the game of hockey here. That's what you hope for when you bring a big event to your city."

Extension for Bettman

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who remains popular among owners for increasing revenues and franchise values but is disliked by fans after leading the league through three lockouts, has gotten a contract extension through the 2021-22 season. Not coincidentally, that would carry him through the duration of the current labor agreement with the NHL Players' Assn.

The news was first reported Sunday by Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated, but Bettman said in a TV interview he had gotten the extension "many, many months ago." He added, "I love what I do and I'm going to keep doing it until the owners get tired of me or I run out of energy."

Bettman became the NHL's first commissioner on Feb. 1, 1993. Since then, the league has expanded into many non-traditional markets —sometimes with mixed results — and has sent players to participate in the last five Winter Olympics.


Nashville and Central Division goaltender Pekka Rinne's penalty for illegally playing the puck outside the trapezoid was the first penalty in an All-Star game since 2009. "It was embarrassing," Rinne said. "I had no clue where the trapezoid was at that point. I just wanted to get rid of it."

Country singer Dierks Bentley, a celebrity coach for the Central Division team, is an avid recreational hockey player and enjoyed being behind the bench Sunday. "It's a beer league player's dream to be out here," he said. Singer Amy Grant, the celebrity coach for the Atlantic Division, was credited with requesting the challenge that wiped out a potential second goal for Corey Perry and the Pacific in the finale.

Representatives of the Hockey Hall of Fame took a selection of game-used equipment from this first-ever three-on-three All Star tournament to put on display in Toronto. Among the gear: sticks belonging to Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau, pants worn by Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, the helmets worn by most valuable player John Scott and Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien, and gloves worn by Chicago winger Patrick Kane.

NBCSN announcer Mike Emrick took time during the broadcast to send get-well wishes to longtime Kings broadcaster Bob Miller, who is scheduled to undergo multiple-bypass heart surgery on Tuesday. There's no timetable for a return by Miller, 77.


Twitter: @helenenothelen