Pop quiz: Of the post-1990 expansion teams, which have not hosted (or are not scheduled to host) an NHL All-Star Game?
Answer: As of this morning, the Anaheim Ducks.
The National Hockey League hasn’t made the official announcement yet but reports are that the city of Nashville will host the 2016 All-Star Game. Commissioner Gary Bettman, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Bridgestone Americas CEO/President Gary Garfield will all be on site Friday to make it official.
During the Skate of the Union event on September 11, 2013, Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran said that the team had been “led to believe that we could possibly have one in the next three years.” As it turns out, that timetable was exactly right.
“We’ve been in discussion with the league about getting an All-Star Game and we’re getting great support from our partner, Bridgestone,” Cigarran said at the event last year. “The league can’t commit because the decisions haven’t been made but we’ve been given strong indications that we’ll be getting one within the next three years.”
Quite frankly, it’s about time. Nashville has been known as a destination city for traveling fans and media for a while and the downtown area will really benefit from the tourist dollars. More than that, since 1991, the league has expanded by nine teams. Seven of them have hosted (or are scheduled to host) the annual event. Only Nashville and Anaheim have been excluded. The Ducks, however, are in a unique situation as the Honda Center is located just 30 miles from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Due to the Kings hosting in 2002, Nashville was the only market to have not been associated with an NHL All-Star Weekend until today. Heck, even the now-relocated Atlanta Thrashers got to host one.
It’s assumed that the league was waiting on the completion of the new convention facility, the Music City Center, before naming Nashville as an All-Star city. The $635 million project has been open for about a year and a half now and is ready for prime time. After all, each city selected to host the festivities holds the game itself, the Skills Competition and an All-Star Weekend in which vendors and exhibitors pack a convention center space for three or four days. And, with the Omni Hotel next door, there will be plenty of accommodations close by for players, media and fans.
Bridgestone Arena will have to make improvements to the press box. Unlike most live sporting venues, Nashville’s press box is actually in the stands and can accommodate roughly 60 people. When the Preds took on the Vancouver Canucks in the second round of the 2011 playoffs, the team compensated for media overflow by setting up some work tables on the 100 level. Needless to say, they’ll need a lot more room than that with an event like the All-Star Game coming to town. But, with the constant improvements going on at 501 Broadway, there’s no reason to believe that won’t be completed by January 2016.
As a side note, it’s a little surprising that the Arizona Coyotes weren’t awarded the 2016 game. They lost the 2006 event due to the league’s last minute agreement to let the players participate in the Winter Olympics but never cashed their rain check. San Jose was to hold the 1995 game but that got erased because of a lockout (made up in 1997), Atlanta was set to host in 2005 but the league lost the entire season due to another lockout (made up in 2008) and Columbus was scheduled to host the 2013 weekend but that was wiped out by – you guessed it – yet another lockout (they’re scheduled to host in 2015). Every team aside from the Coyotes have been awarded a make-up date. Perhaps franchise instability has a lot to do with that.
Whatever the case, 2016 is Nashville’s year now. And with players like Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Seth Jones and James Neal, the Predators could be well represented at the event.
Bridgestone Arena once hosted another league event, the NHL Entry Draft back in 2003.