Craig Leipold is nothing if not persistent. The Wild owner has been in Gary Bettman's ear regarding two hot-button issues -- first, landing the Wild a Winter Classic and second, moving the Wild from the Northwest Division to the more geographically logical Central.
The NHL commissioner admitted as such during a stop in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Since purchasing the Wild in 2008, Leipold has attempted to deliver the "State of Hockey" an outdoor game.
"He covets the possibility, and I believe, without giving you a timetable, at some point it would be crazy if we didn't have a Winter Classic here," Bettman said. "As an event in Minnesota, it will be a great event."
Bettman, though, stressed the words "in Minnesota." For the Wild to lure a Winter Classic, the NHL must be confident it will be a "great event" everywhere.
Last year's Winter Classic was Washington vs. Pittsburgh, or Ovechkin vs. Crosby. This year's Winter Classic is Rangers vs. Philadelphia, or two marquee franchises. HBO swooped in last year and did an entertaining "24/7" documentary series, something the network will do again this year.
Is the Wild "24/7" worthy? Is the Wild sexy enough to capture the interest of hockey fans everywhere?
Debatable. Until that happens, it'll be difficult for the Wild to sell the league solely on Minnesota's vast love and rich tradition for hockey.
"An important element of doing the Winter Classic is obviously the national TV ratings, so we have to be comfortable that whatever matchup we're going to do will do a good number," Bettman said.
With realignment a year away, Leipold is trying to get the Wild out of the Northwest. But during the last Board of Governors meeting, it became clear that the fewer teams touched by realignment, the easier it'll be for the league to get the necessary two-thirds majority to approve it.
Reportedly, the simplest concept would be to move Detroit to the East's Southeast Division, Winnipeg to the West's Central.
"I understand [Leipold's] concerns," Bettman said. "But you need 20 teams to approve it."
Leipold has several reasons for wanting the Wild to move to the Central: 1) better geographical rivalries; 2) shorter flights; 3) fiscally more desirable; 4) less occasions the team has to clear customs; 5) earlier start times, meaning fans can watch more road games on TV.
Bettman said, "Oh, I completely understand his issue. But Dallas feels the same way. You've got two clubs in the West that are in the Eastern time zone [Detroit and Columbus]. There is no shortage of clubs that would like to see an adjustment. But our geography is what it is, so trying to find a solution that satisfies everyone is not an easy task, but it's one we're working on."
In a sitdown with the Star Tribune, Bettman touched on myriad subjects. Here's a snippet:
• Collective bargaining agreement, which expires Sept. 15, 2012: "It's not a front-burner issue right now. ... We have a new executive director for the union [Donald Fehr], and he has said he will not be ready to talk at least until the All-Star Game."
• Transparency shown by new NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan: "The most important element of the videos beyond the transparency is we know the players are watching. ... Our players adjust extraordinarily well, but by giving the guidance that Brendan has given, it's expedited the process. The number of hits is actually up over last year. The game is as physical as it's been, but it's safer."
• State of the game: "I marvel at the speed. The level of skill of an NHL player to play our game now is simply phenomenal, and I don't think there's anything comparable to it in sports. Go sit on the glass one night. It's almost hard to believe. It's breathtaking what you're seeing."
• Regarding some players asserting there is a painkiller problem in the NHL: "I don't know the answer to that. The counselors who monitor these things for us tell us they don't think it's a problem that's widespread. We are a cross section of society, so we're not immune to societal problems."