NHL's Bettman Favors World Cup Of Hockey Over Olympics, But Int'l Hockey Execs Disagree
NHL players in February will compete in the Sochi Olympics but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday at the Prime Time Sports Management conference in Toronto said that a World Cup of Hockey "would be a better option going forward," according to Kerry Gillespie of the TORONTO STAR. However, Hockey Canada President & CEO Bob Nicholson argued that the "global reach of the Olympics makes it an important part of hockey’s future and the best players should continue to take to the Olympic ice every four years." Nicholson said, "NHL owners are involved in the game because they want to make money and we have to understand that but ... we shouldn’t pick off the Olympics." He added, "We should use the Olympics so we can all benefit, make dollars and promote the game in a lot of different ways." Int'l Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel said that the NHL "needs the Olympics to open up new markets and grow its brand, particularly in Asia." He added that growing the game globally "should be a concern for everyone, including the NHL, at a time when hockey participation among young people is declining in North America." Gillespie notes even though NHLers "love the chance to play for their country, team owners have long argued that they face significant risk and don’t see any real benefit from suspending their season." Fasel said that if the gate revenue from the '10 Vancouver Games, estimated at $150M, was "given to the NHL teams as compensation," it would only amount to $5M a team. Fasel: "What is $5 million for an NHL team? For me, it’s a lot of money, for them it’s zero, nothing, maybe petty cash. Before we speak with owners about the money, we should speak with them about how to promote the game" (TORONTO STAR, 11/12).
DROPPING THE GLOVES: The CP's Stephen Whyno noted NHL GMs today will "discuss potential changes to fighting rules" during their annual meeting. Bettman, referencing a fight instigated by Flyers G Ray Emery, said, "I think the level of dialogue gets sparked by an occasional incident, and an incident of this nature when you look at everything else that is going on in the season was really a small pebble relative to a beach full of sand, which is seeing an incredibly entertaining season. I think sometimes an incident, as rare as it might be, tends to get focused on disproportionately." Bettman called fighting "a 'thermostat' in hockey that helps cool things down when tensions run high." He expects "a 'general discussion' but does not think any rule changes will come about just yet" (CP, 11/11). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the NHL "bends over backward to retain fighting" because the league "clearly lacks faith in its game's ability to be mainstream." Rather than "just get to the right answer, the NHL dithers away by adding layers of rightness, displaying both a lack of faith in its game's marketability and, most of all, a void in vision and leadership." Fighting is "obviously a safety issue," and is, "without a doubt, a marketing issue." The NHL's main competition -- the NFL, NBA and MLB -- all "survive quite well without it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/10).