NHL GOVERNORS GRANT BETTMAN A CONTRACT EXTENSION
The NHL Board of Governors voted yesterday to extend Gary
Bettman's term as Commissioner. As part of their meetings in
Palm Beach, FL, the Governors gave unanimous approval to the
extension, the terms of which are to be negotiated. Board Chair
Harley Hotchkiss: "There was a strong feeling among the
Governors that we have exactly the right person running the
National Hockey League. We wanted to make sure that Gary would
be available to lead us into the next century." In a statement,
Bettman noted the Board "initiated the discussion on an
extension" (NHL). Bettman, in a conference call: "I love this
game. I love this job. ... I'm not looking to do anything else"
DETAILS TO COME: The TORONTO STAR reports the Board intends
to give Bettman a five-year extension, which combined with his
remaining two years would take him through February 2003. Bob
McKenzie reports part of the reason was a "fear" that another
league might hire Bettman away (TORONTO STAR, 12/15). Asked
about potential term of the new deal, Hotchkiss noted they would
want Bettman to stay through talks on a new CBA in 2000 and
future TV negotiations in '98 and '99 (THE DAILY). Al Strachan
notes the Exec Committee was "quick to point out that the
initiative was with the governors. ... The owners rail against
players who try to renegotiate, so it wouldn't look good to have
their commissioner do it." Strachan cites "highly placed
sources" who say Bettman's salary will be $2.5-3M (TORONTO SUN,
12/15). USA TODAY notes, "Presumably, Bettman would be looking
to at least double his salary" -- presently over $1M per year
(Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, 12/15). TOP ISSUES: In a conference
call, Bettman outlined the issues discussed during yesterday's
meetings. The Governors heard updates on the sale of the Stars
and the relocation of the Jets to Phoenix, both of which are
expected to gain approval at the league's January 19 meeting.
There was also an update on the Panthers' situation. Bettman
said while all options -- including relocation -- are being
considered, their "preference" is to keep the team in South FL.
Bettman: "My tolerance is lowering, my frustration level is
raising." Asked to elaborate, Bettman said, "What we have in
Florida is not a hockey problem. We have a building problem."
Comsat's spin-off of its entertainment companies, including the
Avalanche, into Ascent Entertainment, which launched a 20% IPO
yesterday, was approved by the Board. On expansion, Bettman said
consensus was to focus on stability of current franchises.
Bettman: "Until we're comfortable that we have our house in
order, there's no point in adding an addition or additions to our
house. ... At some point we'll pursue it, but this is not the
right time." Fox made a presentation on its plans for '96
coverage (THE DAILY).
FOX'S "HERETIC": Fox Sports President David Hill's a
presentation left the Governors "clearly awestruck," according to
Tony Gallagher in Vancouver. Gallagher noted Hill's persistence
on requesting the league go to four quarters and for other
changes, including more special-event jerseys from teams
(Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/15). In Ottawa, Roy MacGregor calls
Hill's talk "more than a bit chilling, particularly for
traditionalists" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 12/15).
OTHER TOPICS: In Minneapolis, Jay Weiner reports that one
Governor -- the Blackhawks' William Wirtz -- said the Twin Cities
area "doesn't deserve a franchise" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE,
12/15). The N.Y. TIMES focuses on reports the Oilers may be the
next team with financial problems that need to be addressed
(Charlie Nobles, N.Y. TIMES, 12/15).
The Canucks, Penguins, Mighty Ducks, Kings and Bruins will all
unveil a third jersey after January 1. They debut on national TV
broadcasts (CBC for the Canucks, Fox for the U.S. teams) and are
"geared toward kids" (USA TODAY, 12/15).