EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Months after Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé played to sellout crowds at MetLife Stadium, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hopes his league can do the same with back-to-back outdoor games this winter.
Bettman hopes the Meadowlands (Gary's Version) is its next big hit.
The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 17 and then the New York Rangers and Islanders on Feb. 18 are set to play the NHL's 40th and 41st regular-season outdoor games.
“They’ve all been sold out, and we expect these two to be no exception,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday at a news conference promoting the 2024 Stadium Series games.
Bettman said the NHL is on track to set an attendance record this season, and that doesn't even take into account the 82,500 fans expected at each of the games at the home of the NFL's Jets and Giants. It's not quite the crowd of 100,000-plus that took in the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1, 2014, but combined it could be the best-attended weekend in league history.
“Think about this: Over two days, we’re going to have 160,000 people watching hockey,” NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer said. “That’s crazy.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the NHL event is happening at a peak time for the stadium, which recently hosted three nights of Swift's “The Eras Tour" and has been in the NFL spotlight for the ill-fated Jets debut of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Swift's appearance when Travis Kelce and the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs visited.
“It’s coming at a great sweet-spot time for us,” Murphy said, also referring to last weekend's Jets-Giants game and other concerts. “Just one success after another.”
Murphy hopes the outdoor games beget another win for the state and stadium, which already has been chosen as a venue for the 2026 Men's World Cup. He sees the February weekend as another audition of sorts for officials making the decision on where to stage the soccer tournament's championship game.
“We’re pitching like heck to get the finals,” Murphy said. “Too early to tell, but the success of something like this is yet another datapoint that outsiders can look at and say, ‘These folks know what they’re doing.’ This is as good as it gets in terms of getting up on the wire, no net, all the lights on you and just executing flawlessly.”
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