SBD/Closing Bell

Bettman Encouraged By Early-Season NHL TV, Attendance Numbers

Early TV and attendance numbers suggest that fans have started returning to the NHL, a development that has caused NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to breathe a sigh of relief. "We could be hopeful all we wanted, but we didn't take anything for granted," Bettman said. "We are grateful and we are excited." NBC saw its highest regular-season TV audiences (excluding the Winter Classic) for its opening games on Saturday, and all local NHL ratings posted a collective 32% increase versus the same number of games at the start of last season.

Bettman, who has been to four games in five nights, credited the league's clubs with effectively reaching out to the fans. "We really thought that it was most important initially that the fans reconnect with their teams," he said. "We took out ads in every market nationally in Canada and the U.S. But we thought it was more important initially that all of our efforts be focused on backstopping the clubs as they reached out." Bettman pointed to clubs' efforts to discount tickets, food and merchandise for helping draw a connection to the fans.
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