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Blackhawks unlikely to host NHL All-Star Game in near future at United Center

Commissioner Gary Bettman says the NHL needs to spread the wealth.

2019 NHL All-Star - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Press Conference And Innovation Spotlight Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Chicago has hosted the NHL All-Star Game four times at Chicago Stadium, but never at the United Center.

The NHL showcased its top talent in the game in 1948, 1961, 1974 and 1991 but has yet to take the All-Star game back to Chicago to the United Center since the new building opened in 1995. And it doesn’t seem like NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is planning on bringing the game to Chicago soon.

“Where we windup for league events is opportunistic and it depends on the schedule. It depends on building and facility availability.” Bettman said Friday during a press conference at NHL All-Star weekend in San Jose, California.

“Chicago certainly has had its share of league events. Every time we announce an outdoor game somebody thinks Chicago is going to play in it, and the announcement I made this morning was no exception because post-Notre Dame (there were) people were saying, ‘oh, must be taking the Blackhawks to Dallas.’”

Earlier in the press conference, Bettman announced the Predators would play in their first outdoor game in the 2020 Winter Classic against the Stars at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. He also said the Kings will visit the Avalanche for a Stadium Series game next year at Falcon Stadium on the Air Force Academy’s campus outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both Colorado and Los Angeles have played in outdoor games before.

Chicago has appeared in a league-high six outdoor games since 2009 after their loss to the Bruins earlier this month at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Blackhawks fans have grown weary of seeing their favorite team in outdoor games as the team is 1-5 in them. Chicago’s lone win came in the 2014 Stadium Series against Pittsburgh at Solider Field in Chicago.

The Blackhawks also hosted the 2017 NHL draft at the United Center, where star players Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane announced the team’s selection of defenseman Henri Jokiharju in the first round.

While Bettman joked about the fatigue factor, he also noted that Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough still wants the team in league events.

“John McDonough is constantly banging on the door to see what else the Blackhawks can be doing with the league,” Bettman said. “Rocky Wirtz has been an incredible owner, but we have to move things around. We have 31 teams and everyone wants league events and we’ve certainly not been bashful about including Chicago.”

There are six current NHL cities that have not yet been awarded an all-star game: Anaheim; Glendale, Arizona; Las Vegas; Newark, New Jersey; Washington D.C. and Winnipeg. The Capitals (1982) and Devils (1984) have hosted the all-star game before, but not at their current home arenas.

The NHL has also promised Seattle an all-star game and draft within seven years of the yet-to-be-named team’s 2021-22 inaugural season. The draft is expected to come before the all-star game.

In addition to the United Center, there are six other NHL arenas that have not hosted the game in markets that have hosted it previously: Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Buffalo’s KeyBank Center, Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, Edmonton’s Rogers Place, Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center and Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena.

This year’s game will be at SAP Center in San Jose for the time since 1997, when the building was named San Jose Arena. The NHL announced on New Year’s Day that St. Louis will host the 2020 game for a second time at the newly-named Enterprise Center.

Chicago has hosted two all-star games for other leagues since 1991, with the 2003 MLB game at the White Sox’s at U.S. Cellular Field and 2017 MLS game at Soldier Field.

The Bulls are scheduled to host next year’s NBA All-Star Game at the United Center, but it’s unlikely the NHL will follow in the near future.