SBD/Issue 54/Sports Media

Blocked Shots: Bettman Fields Questions From Callers

Bettman Fields Questions From Callers
During Debut Of XM's "NHL Hour"
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday co-hosted the debut of “NHL Hour,” a weekly live radio show broadcast on XM Satellite Radio and Bettman began the show by saying, “I thought this would be a good opportunity for us to interact with fans. While the media does a great job of covering our game, there may be things on fans' minds that they want to talk to me about personally.”  Most of the callers yesterday lobbed softball questions at Bettman, who is the first commissioner of a major U.S. sports league to host his own radio show.  One caller gushed about what a great job Bettman is doing and praised the CBA before asking his question, and two of the callers from Winnipeg failed to ask about potential expansion into the market, a hot-button issue in the area since the Jets left for Phoenix in ‘96.  But besides the occasional PR-speak -- Bettman proclaimed the league’s fans to be the best on several occasions -- he was personable and seemed very comfortable answering questions, at times joking with callers. When one caller’s cell phone started to break up, Bettman quipped, “We’re getting a lot of static from your cell phone. Can you turn your head or something?”

GETTING TO THE ISSUES: Listeners could also submit questions via e-mail, and the only e-mail read during the hour asked if there is a chance that the NHL will return to ESPN when the league’s contract with Versus expires. Bettman said Versus “treats us as their most important product, and while we had a good relationship with ESPN, coming out of the work stoppage [in ‘05] we had different objectives. They have everything on ESPN, and we felt we need a primary importance that perhaps they couldn’t give us. We gave up some distribution in the short term. … Versus will continue to grow, we expect to be with them for the long term. But we never say never to anything, and maybe an opportunity will come up in the future to maybe have ESPN join in the mix.” Another caller asked Bettman what the NHL could do about the Maple Leafs management, with the team currently in last place in the Northeast Division.  Bettman  claimed the Leafs management "is very strong" and noted "winning isn't easy to do."  Co-host Bill Clement also asked Bettman about issues surrounding the sale of the Lightning and the Predators. Bettman said sales of teams “all have twists and turns. There’s never one that is like any one that preceded it. There’s always some issue with the closing, there’s always some issue among partners. The easiest sale is when a very successful person comes up and writes a check and we call it a day.” Bettman also conducted a quick interview with Stars G Marty Turco, asking him about working for new co-GM Brett Hull, the size of goalie equipment and his favorite NHL arenas.

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