Programming note: For all the day’s sports news, tune in to SportsNet Central tonight at 6 p.m., 10:30 and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SANTA CLARA -– The first-ever NHL outdoor game in California last season between the Kings and Ducks at Dodger Stadium wasn’t a surefire sellout. The league struggled to fill the building, which holds 56,000, although it was eventually able to do so.
That’s not the case in the South Bay. According to Sharks COO John Tortora, there were less than 5,000 seats remaining for the Sharks-Kings outdoor game when it went on sale to the general public, shortly after a press conference at Levi’s Stadium on Thursday to announce the Feb. 21, 2015 event.
That’s nearly 65,000 tickets sold to preferred customers -– a.k.a. season ticket and suite holders of both the Sharks and 49ers, as well as Kings season ticket holders –- in the eight weeks since the game was originally announced on August 6.
Yes, the first outdoor game in Sharks history will be a sellout at the glorious new home of the 49ers, approximately eight miles from downtown San Jose.
“It's exceeded our expectations about how quickly the sales have gone. But, it goes to the support we've had from our fan base,” Tortora said. “Our fan base responded to this type of celebration of the game and responded to a big event in a new stadium. It's worked."
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said: “We know that there are great, passionate Sharks fans, and displaced NHL fans from around North America that live in the Bay Area. We figured you combine the Sharks with the interest in hockey in this state, and it was an enormous proposition.”
The game was in the works for a while. Although ticket sales for the Dodgers-Ducks game didn’t go so swimmingly, the event itself was viewed as a tremendous success. A hockey rink can, in fact, be built and maintained in a warm weather climate.
The Sharks made it known to Bettman and company that they wanted a game. As far as Bettman was concerned, that request was as good as fulfilled after the event in Los Angeles on January 25.
“As soon as we saw what we had at Dodger Stadium, we knew we were coming up here,” Bettman said.
“We knew the Sharks wanted it, and they kept saying, ‘If you can do it there, you can do it here.’ As soon as we saw what an incredible success that game was, there was no question we were coming.”
Bettman also explained the rationale behind having the game at Levi’s Stadium rather than AT&T Park in San Francisco.
“I think there were really a couple of factors. This is really Sharks country. This is where predominantly Sharks season ticket holders come from, and we wanted to keep it in Sharks country to the extent we could.
“Coupled with the fact the 49ers invited us into this magnificent state-of-the-art, technologically advanced stadium -– that combination said to us this was the right place.”
The larger capacity, of course, also played a role, according to the commissioner. Levi’s Stadium holds almost 30,000 more fans than the home of the San Francisco Giants.
Selling it out seemed like a tall order. Apparently not.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said: “I think it tells you a lot about our fan base and the growth of hockey in California. To me, this is a celebration of both those things. All the players that have played here, the fans that have supported us, the community. We take this as a great compliment and a great opportunity to continue to grow our game here.”
"It’s exciting to hear the tickets are going really well so far," Joe Pavelski said. "That’s what we expect. Playing the Kings, too, makes it just about perfect."