Source: Yankees wouldn't stand in way of NHL game closing out fabled stadium

Updated: March 11, 2008, 6:22 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

An executive with knowledge of the Yankees thinking tells 1050 ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand that the team will not stand in the way of a proposed plan for the final event at Yankee Stadium to be an NHL game.

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No agreement is actually in place yet for the possible Yankee Stadium finale, but if a deal does happen, the game would likely be played on New Year's Day in 2009 and involve the New York Rangers. The opponent for the game has yet to be decided.

In the past, the Yankees have opposed hosting a hockey game because the ice could affect Yankee Stadium field conditions. The team will move into its new stadium to start the 2009 season so the field conditions are no longer an issue.

The New York Daily News reported Monday that the Yankees and the NHL were working toward a deal on hosting a game in the Bronx.

"It's something we've spoken both to the Yankees and to the city about," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the newspaper, "but it's not a done deal. There are still other possibilities and a lot of moving pieces."

Yankee Stadium opened in 1923. Construction on the Yankees' new park began in 2006 at a cost of more than $1 billion.

It seems clear that the NHL is intent on capitalizing on the incredibly popular Winter Classic in Buffalo, played on New Year's Day before a crowd of more than 71,000 at snowy Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The first regular-season outdoor NHL game in the United States, between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins, drew a 2.6 overnight rating and a 5 share on NBC, the best numbers since a six-game regional NHL telecast on Fox in February 1996.

The Winter Classic ratings also surpassed those for Wayne Gretzky's final game on April 18, 1999.

Pittsburgh beat Buffalo 2-1 in a shootout on a Sidney Crosby goal.

To generate maximum interest, the paper said the league and the network would prefer an Original Six foe for New York.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also said recently that an outdoor game in Chicago, possibly at Wrigley Field, "would make a lot of sense."

Andrew Marchand is managing editor of 1050 ESPN New York. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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