NHL commissioner Gary Bettman couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2016-17 NHL season.
First there was the announcement out of Edmonton that Wayne Gretzky was returning to the Alberta capital as partner and vice-chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group. That news had longtime fans telling the younger generation about how good this guy was in the day.
Then in the centre of the hockey universe, Toronto, first overall pick Auston Matthews scored four times in his NHL debut. Coach Mike Babcock nicely summarized the night’s events when he said “we’re all part of history tonight.”
Later in the evening, with many still buzzing about Gretzky’s return to the Oilers, new Edmonton captain Connor McDavid scored twice during the official grand opening of the new $640 million Rogers Place.
There was no talk of labour strife, troubled franchises or low TV ratings. Bettman would no doubt like more nights, like opening night.