New arena for Red Wings means NHL events will return to Detroit

Fans enter Little Caesars Arena, the new home to the Detroit Red Wings, prior to an NHL preseason hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Detroit. (Paul Sancya/AP)

DETROIT – A new building means new opportunity to welcome the league’s major events.

The last time Detroit hosted an NHL All-Star Game was 1980. Before that, it was 1955. Hockeytown has held a total of one NHL Draft, and that was back in 1987.

Yet hours before puck drop on the first regular-season game at Little Caesars Arena — the Red Wings’ new state-of-the-art, $863-million abode — commissioner Gary Bettman vowed to return major indoor league events to Michigan. (The NHL did bring its Winter Classic to Ann Arbour in 2014.)

“They would take an all-star game next year. I’d like to see the District finished, so that when we bring guests in from all around the world, they can see what the entire vision was and how it’s played out. Whether that’s two, three or four years, we’ll be here with league events. I have no doubt about that,” Bettman said Thursday evening.

“When you were going to The Joe, you went to see the Red Wings and put up with the building. I think there are people who just want to see this building, it’s so great.”

Edmonton, which opened its own new facility last fall, is also expected to host an all-star game within the new few years.

Naturally, the conversation shifted to the Flames and CEO Ken King’s desire for a new rink, which has turned into a municipal election issue in Calgary.

Save for New York’s newly refurbished Madison Square Garden, Alberta’s Scotiabank Saddledome is the oldest NHL arena in operation.

“I don’t want to get accused of weighing in on the election,” Bettman said. “Something like this is transformative for any city.

“Clearly, the Flames need a new arena. There was another owner who’s seeking a new building and came for a tour [of Little Caesars] a month ago, and I asked Chris [Ilitich, Red Wings CEO] if he was weeping when he got done seeing this building.

“This would be great for any city.”

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