SBD/September 20, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bettman Says He Never Doubted NHL Would Come Back Strong From Lockout

Bettman does not foresee expanding the league into Europe
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday said that he "never had a doubt the NHL would rebound from one of its darkest moments" in last season's lockout, according to Chris Kuc of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Bettman said, "We obviously never like going through (that) but the long-term health of the game requires that you make difficult decisions to make sure you have the right foundation. The league came back extraordinarily strong last year. ... I've always believed in the game and I've always believed in our fans." Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz, "one of the hard-line owners who pushed for an agreement that would greatly favor the franchises, also said he had no doubt the league would rebound." Wirtz: "I know it sounds funny now, but I believe that it was just getting over the hump. Collective bargaining is a process and it's never easy." Wirtz said that "all is forgiven -- and forgotten -- after negotiations often took an ugly turn with some players expressing their frustration in the media with harsh words directed at the owners of their teams" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/20). Bettman said of the league's future, "We just want more of the same. We want to continue to build off the foundation we have. The game on the ice is as strong as it's ever been. And we're looking to continue to find ways to connect with our fans that will energize our fan base and grow it." The CP noted Bettman "doesn't foresee expansion to Europe, something that's been occasionally considered for more than 30 years." Bettman said, "It's really hard to do, some of it logistics. We want to be good citizens in the institutional hockey world, but there is a growing interest throughout the world. That's something we're going to continue to try to satisfy" (CP, 9/19).

THE GREAT OUTDOORS: ESPN CHICAGO's Scott Powers noted Bettman "was unsure of the future of the league’s outdoor games after this season, but the Blackhawks said they’d be interested in having more games in Chicago, including one at U.S. Cellular Field." The Blackhawks will host the Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1, 2014 as part of the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. Bettman thought that six outdoor games in the '13-14 season was the "perfect number, but he didn’t know if the NHL would consider making the stadium series an annual event." He said, "We’ll see how well we do with the weather, and we’ll take a deep breath when we get to mid-March and say, ‘Okay, what worked well? Is this is the right number? Should we do more? Do less?’" Bettman "didn’t believe the NHL was in a dangerous territory of having too many outdoor games in a season." He added, "Let’s keep in mind and in perspective that we play 1,230 regular-season games, so we’re doing six" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 9/19). In Illinois, Tim Sassone notes Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough and Wirtz "basically lobbied Bettman for another outdoor game since playing at Wrigley Field" in '09. McDonough: "You've got to ask. During conversations we had with (Bettman), we tried to skillfully weave in how unique this city is." Sassone noted all that is "left is for the Hawks to host the All-Star Game and entry draft" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 9/20).

BEAVER STADIUM TO HOST PENS-FLYERS? NHL COO John Collins on Thursday said that a potential Penguins-Flyers game at Penn State Univ.'s Beaver Stadium "has one significant obstacle to overcome," in that one of the teams would have to give up a home game. Collins: "It's always fun to come up with those scenarios in the league office or as a third party, but at the end of the day it does require a club to give up a home game. We haven't broached that yet." In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi notes, "Neither side is eager to dismiss the Beaver Stadium game as a possibility, but there is no firm agreement between the Penguins and Flyers on how to pull off a neutral site game" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/20).
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