PITTSBURGH—Good again, and with an American star in Auston Matthews at centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs are now seemingly part of the NHL’s keynote events.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced Monday the Leafs will face the Washington Capitals in an outdoor game at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., on March 3, 2018.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs look forward to competing in another memorable outdoor game,” said Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a release. “Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will provide an exciting and unique experience for the Maple Leafs organization and our fans.”
IIHF boss still hopeful NHL will go to Pyeongchang Olympics
It’s part of the league’s Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, the Leafs third invitation — and second year in a row in the Matthews era — in the league’s nine seasons of holding games outdoors. The Leafs are 2-0-0 in outdoor games, with wins over the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 1, 2014, at Michigan Stadium and Jan. 1, 2017, at BMO Field.
The Sabres, which hosted the first Winter Classic, will be the home team — albeit at Citi Field in New York — against the New York Rangers in the 10th anniversary of the Winter Classic. Ottawa will hold an outdoor game against Montreal on Dec. 16 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first game in NHL history.
Bettman made the announcement as part of his annual state-of-the-league address, about two hours before the puck dropped on the 2017 Stanley Cup final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.
In mentioning Matthews by name as the top goal-scorer in five-on-five situations, as well as Connor McDavid and Patrik Laine, Bettman said “there is no dispute our game is young and vibrant, and the on-ice future of our game is incredibly bright.”
He insisted all was well with the league that generates about $4.5 billion, saying the sometimes-reviled coach’s challenges and video-review system was working as planned, and that he was happier with close, one-goal games than he would be with wild games with lots of scoring.
Bettman defended the league’s decision not to go to the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, while making no commitment to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, even as he trumpeted growing the game internationally by featuring exhibition games between Los Angeles and Vancouver, to be played in China in September, and with regular-season games in Sweden between Ottawa and Colorado.
If there’s a battle brewing, it’ll be with the NHL Players’ Association. Some players — especially Washington star Alex Ovechkin — have overtly said they will go to the Olympics anyway. Bettman said there would be restraints in place to prevent it.
Another lockout could be looming and the chances for another World Cup in 2020 — four years after its reboot — are also in doubt, given the league and players association could well be in talks for a new collective bargaining agreement that year.
But a source within the players’ association suggested the matter would likely end up in arbitration.
In other developments:
- The salary cap will remain flat at about $73 million, but has a chance to rise to over $77 million if the players invoke an escalator clause.
- The Vegas Golden Knights — who start play next season — will see the protected and exposed lists of the other 30 teams starting June 18, giving them 72 hours to pull together an expansion roster for June 21.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning will host all-star weekend Jan. 27-28, 2018.
- Overall, 11 million Canadians watched part of Game 7 of the Ottawa-Pittsburgh series, which was also the most-watched game in the United States to feature a Canadian team.
- Time limits may be put on coaches for asking for a review on goalie interference or offside, perhaps 20 seconds after a goal was scored.