WASHINGTON — Close your eyes and imagine the Chicago Blackhawks taking the ice against the Colorado Avalanche — to the roar of an Omaha crowd.
That scene is nothing more than a dream for the time being, but Rep. Lee Terry is hoping such a scene can become a reality.
The Omaha Republican has broached the subject of an exhibition game with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman several times over the years and took an opportunity Wednesday to bring it up again.
Bettman, who was on Capitol Hill for a panel discussion, seemed optimistic that it could happen.
As co-chairman of the Congressional Hockey Caucus, Terry was part of the panel along with other lawmakers, Bettman, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey.
Terry said it would make a lot of sense for the NHL to hold an exhibition game in Omaha, a city with no NHL team but plenty of hockey fanatics.
“Omaha's a big hockey town and the reality is we haven't seen NHL hockey in a generation,” Terry said. “I think it's just something that would be a tremendous treat for people in the Omaha metro area.”
Bettman sounded upbeat about the idea in a brief interview with The World-Herald following the panel discussion.
“It's something that we can work on if there's enough interest and somebody wants to put it together,” he said. “We need a local point person who wants to address the effort and I'm sure one of our clubs would love to consider a preseason game.”
With the Stanley Cup sitting on a nearby table, the panelists discussed efforts to increase youth participation in hockey and improve safety for youngsters on the ice.
The event was tied to an annual charity hockey game in which lawmakers take on lobbyists. Founded in 2009, the Congressional Hockey Challenge has raised more than $400,000 for youth hockey programs and college scholarships. Specifically, it benefits the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club and the Fort Dupont Ice Arena.
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