January 23, 2009
From WRALSportsFan.com

NHL to assess if Triangle is ready for 2012 All-Star Game

The NHL plans a site visit to the Triangle, perhaps within a matter of months, in an indication that league's All-Star Game could be here as soon as 2012.

Jim Rutherford, general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, said Friday that the NHL's visit could come at any time but would likely be within the next two or three months.

"It's my understanding they will come here for a site visit," Rutherford said. "Hopefully, we're in line for the next [available] year."

In 2001, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promised the market an All-Star Game within five years if its season ticket base reached 12,000. Fans responded by meeting that number, but the NHL has not awarded the Triangle a game.

Part of the reason: a lack of hotel and meeting rooms.

But Canes owner Peter Karmanos, in a recent discussion with a small group of reporters, said getting the game in 2012 is a possibility. No announcements have been made yet, but the market has added significant infrastructure in recent years.

The Convention Center is now open downtown, the Renaissance Raleigh Hotel just opened at North Hills and the swank Umstead Hotel opened in Cary in 2007.

This year's game is in Montreal Sunday. There will no All-Star Game in 2010 because of the Olympics and Rutherford said he expected the 2011 game to go to Phoenix.

The Triangle, Rutherford said, "is ready for an All-Star Game. Certainly, one of the biggest issues was the space for some of the parties. Now we have the beautiful new convention center that can handle it. And we have the hotels. It appears we are ready."

Scott Dupree of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau echoed Rutherford in saying the primary concerns of the NHL have been addressed. In particular, he said, the city now has the luxury hotels and convention space to handle the event.

"Over the past several years, all the issues have been addressed," Dupree said. "That has been made known to the league."

Rutherford said the market did well when hosting the NHL Draft in 2004 and of course the Stanley Cup in 2002 and 2006. The draft in particular was a trial run for the All-Star Game.

"We have passed all the tests," Rutherford said.

Davin Olsen, the general manager of the RBC Center, said Karmanos "petitions Gary Bettman on a regular basis to get it here."

According to Olsen ,the original plan for All-Star games was to put the game in all of the league's new buildings. However the RBC Center is now nearly 10 years old.

"That was the old premise, now I'm not sure what they're using," Olsen said. "But it certainly wouldn't hurt the community to send e-mails to the NHL and let them know how excited they would be about having it here."

Some NHL players would like to see the NHL not have an All-Star Game on a regular basis, but the Hurricanes' Eric Staal said he loves the event.

"I like it," Staal told 99.9 FM The Fan Friday from Montreal. "I think it's great. I think it's good for the game. Hopefully we can put on a good show Saturday and Sunday and the fans will enjoy it."