BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Work continues behind the scenes on an NHL outdoor game to be played in Winnipeg next season and a formal announcement and ticket launch is only months away.

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Opinion

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Work continues behind the scenes on an NHL outdoor game to be played in Winnipeg next season and a formal announcement and ticket launch is only months away.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday after the league's board of governors meetings wrapped that he hoped to have a formal announcement on a World Cup of Hockey in the next couple of months and that a schedule of three to four outdoor games for the 2015-16 would follow.

League sources indicate there has been progress made on plans for an outdoor game in Winnipeg and the process continues to move forward.

The NHL would like to announce its World Cup plans in Columbus at this season's all-star weekend in late January. Bettman was asked about the possibility of outdoor games for next season. Along with Winnipeg, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Boston are rumoured candidates.

"It's overwhelming. Everybody wants one. The answer is in the next couple of months we'll do it," said Bettman. "We won't do six. We'll probably do more than two. If I had to guess, and it's only a guess, it's probably three or four. It's probably what we're talking about. It's a nice, manageable number."

Bettman was asked if the league would make its formal announcement prior to spring.

"Well, I'd hope so," he said. "We'll announce them when plans are finalized, but for a whole host of reasons, you don't want to announce a city before you finalize because all of a sudden hotel rooms evaporate at reasonable prices, and there are things you have to do. So we would like to get further in front of the schedule than perhaps we've been; the clubs would like more lead time. So we're trying to do that. We're working on the World Cup. We're working on the outdoor games."

Jets co-owner Mark Chipman told the Free Press at these same meetings last year the league had commited to bringing an outdoor game to Winnipeg.

"The NHL has confirmed to me they are going to do an outdoor game in Winnipeg. I don't have a specific date to announce but it would be our preference that we do it in the 2015-16 season," Chipman said at the time. "The date hasn't been confirmed but our preference is to do it then. The league's commitment to doing an outdoor game in our city is fantastic. It's something we've been talking about for some time and it's part of a significant strategy to do outdoor games and it will be great to be a part of it."

 

The game will be played at Investors Group Field and Bombers CEO Wade Miller has said he'd support the game with the football club continuing in its partnership with True North Sports & Entertainment to bring entertainment opportunities to the city.

The Bombers have been granted the Grey Cup to be played in the fall of 2015.

"We can add around 8,000 seats to get our seating to just under 41,000," said Bombers CEO Wade Miller. "We'd like to have the seats up for the Banjo Bowl and keep them in place through both events if it's a fit for both organizations."

The Bombers and Jets have worked together on a number of concert events in the past.

"I think there's some infrastructure costs we can share. It's well known that we have a good relationship with the football club and we actually formally manage their non-football events for them and have for some time," said Chipman. "I think it would be a fairly easy thing for us to work with them and to manage all of those details to maximize whatever investment is necessary for extra seating."

Both the league and the Jets have been extremely tight-lipped on an opponent for the game and it's unknown at this point if one has been selected or whether the process is ongoing.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless