SBD/June 13, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Gary Bettman Addresses NHL Revenue, Attendance, Olympics, Coyotes Ownership

Bettman hopes to have the NHL's plans for the Sochi Games settled soon
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in his news conference before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final “didn’t give firm answers to any of the league’s pressing questions other than to say the schedule will be issued later than usual because of the unresolved issues,” according to Kevin McGran of the TORONTO STAR. The league also “allowed that the future of the Phoenix Coyotes could affect realignment.” Bettman said, “We’re getting to the point where decisions have to be made. I haven’t set a deadline, but time is getting shorter.” It is likely the NHL “will want some kind of resolution" by the next BOG meeting on June 27. A decision on NHL player participation in the ’14 Sochi Olympics also “is taking longer than expected.” The IOC “keeps a tight hold on its properties," but Olympics and NHL TV rightsholder NBC is "helping the sides find common ground.” Bettman said, “We continue to work at it. I think the parties have been in close contact in recent days. We hope to get together and get it hammered out in the near future” (TORONTO STAR, 6/13). Bettman said that the league is “in discussion with the players' union about reviving a World Cup and scheduling more European games but emphasized the Olympic issue was at the top of the international agenda.” He said, "We're in discussion with the players association working on [a] time table for international competition. The first step is figuring out what we are doing with the Olympics, we are going to take a look at world championship participation and we are very much committed to bringing back a World Cup and doing it on a regular basis" (REUTERS, 6/12).

OTHER ISSUES
: Bettman said that the 48-game, lockout-shortened season “played to 97 percent capacity during the regular season, and more than 100 percent capacity during the playoffs.” ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside reported NHL revenues are “projecting higher than a straight percentage of the games played during the truncated season that began Jan. 19.” Bettman: “We played 58 percent of our season but we did better than 58 percent of our revenues, we believe. It’s not done yet, and there’s still some more revenues to be generated over the next couple of weeks. But we believe we did better than a strict percentage would have you think" (ESPN.com, 6/12). In Chicago, Mark Potash notes TV ratings are “strong across the board.” Bettman said of fans, ‘‘We thank them for that. The good news (is) we have a long-term agreement, up to a decade of labor peace” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/13). Bettman also suggested that concussions, on a “per-game basis, are down ‘slightly’ year over year and they anticipate league revenues to do well.” The GLOBE & MAIL’s Eric Duhatschek notes Bettman “dropped one other interesting tidbit of information -- the NHL has settled on the names of the new divisions under the agreed-upon realignment plan, along with the new playoff format.” But Bettman said that he would “wait until after the Stanley Cup final to unveil their choices” (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/13).

END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS? In Vancouver, Cam Cole writes maybe a “few of the sellout streaks around the league had to be artificially inflated, maybe the claims of boffo crowds leaguewide didn't exactly correspond to what met the naked eye in some buildings.” Cole writes, “Maybe no one really missed the Winter Classic or the all-star game except for the markets involved. Maybe HBO's 24/7 series, like the New Year's Day outdoor game it promotes, will simply carry over to next season and the ticked-off corporate partners will be pacified and no one will be any the worse for wear. And maybe Gary Bettman was betting on all of the above.” Still, it is “difficult to look back now on those four-plus months … without feeling that it was all choreographed, and we were all played like stringed instruments.” But the league has “bounced back pretty much exactly as it was pre-lockout, albeit with some temporary downgrades” (VANCOUVER SUN, 6/13).
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