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BETTMAN ADDRESSES NEW JERSEY PAPER ON DEVILS' LEASE
Published June 5, 1995
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wrote an open letter to the Bergen RECORD letter detailing the league's stance on the Devils' situation. On May 30, the RECORD's editorial board had called on Bettman to show "leadership" in regards to the Devils' dispute with the NJSEA over conditions at Byrne Arena. In Saturday's RECORD, Thomas Fitzgerald and Stephen Hirsch write that Bettman said the Devils have raised "serious questions" about whether the NJSEA "has lived up to the terms of its lease at Byrne Arena. If the charges are true, 'the conduct of the sports authority presents a very serious issue.'" NJSEA Chair Michael Francis told the RECORD that "a deal is a deal." Francis: "The authority without question has honored all its obligations, commitments and responsibilities .... and we would demand that the Devils do likewise." Devils Owner John McMullen, responding to Francis' comments: "We are trying to keep this kind of thing to a minimum, but they're the ones who haven't kept the deal" (RECORD, 6/3). HIGHLIGHTS: In his letter, Bettman wrote of the league's actions in "preserving and strengthening teams throughout North America," and said that he is "prepared to play a similar role in New Jersey, if the parties think it appropriate." Bettman said for the Devils to continue to put a quality product on the ice, "they must have appropriate levels of revenue to fund the club's operations." Bettman, on the conflict between the NJSEA and Devils: "I have made no judgement on the merits of those claims, except to say that if they are true, the conduct of the Sports Authority presents a very serious issue." Bettman addressed the NHL's position in the New York/NJ market: "Here, nine professional sports teams (three of them NHL teams) operate in the same geographic area, and under these conditions, it is reasonable to ask whether the Devils can both remain competitive and recover some economic vitality." Finally, Bettman responded to the RECORD's call to show "some leadership," writing: "But as you note elsewhere, leadership is more than just throwing out sound bites. It involves getting all the facts, thinking through the issues, and engaging in some constructive problem solving. I cannot promise that everyone will always like the answers or the solutions. But I assure you and your readers that I'll make the effort" (Bergen RECORD, 6/3). REAX: Fitzgerald and Hirsch cite "a source with ties to the NHL" who thinks that Bettman "is simply playing the role of modern league commissioner, who is essentially an employee of the owners." The source: "I think what Gary's doing is sticking up for a local owner" (RECORD, 6/3). In this morning's N.Y. TIMES, Richard Sandomir examines Nashville's quest for a team hockey while noting the lack of interest in the Nashville area for Saturday's Devils-Flyers game. Sandomir writes, "The pursuit of the Devils ... comes from official Nashville: Mayor Phillip Bredesen, and Gaylord Entertainment" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/5).