Bettman Declares '13-14 NHL Season A Success, Addresses Concussions, Expansion
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in his annual state of the league address yesterday "declared this season a rousing success based on record attendance and television viewership on NBC, healthy competitive balance, and the success of the six outdoor games played," according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. Bettman said, "By almost any measure, this may have been the most successful season on and off the ice in league history. There has been a lot written, discussed and debated about the road we took to get to this point, where we are today, but I'm always one who likes to look forward." Bettman noted that "no substantive discussions have taken place regarding NHL players' participation" in the '18 Pyeongchang Games, a matter that "requires agreement" from the NHLPA. He also would not "confirm reports the NHL will support a revived World Cup event" (L.A. TIMES, 6/5). Bettman noted that the NHL's concussion protocol "was working, and that the league was serious about enforcing it." He added that concussions were "down this season by 'moderate, low double-digits' in terms of percentage from last season." In N.Y., Jeff Klein noted Bettman "declined to give details of whether any teams were disciplined, or when, for violating the concussion protocol, but said that the mechanisms for discipline included 'fining possibilities'" (NYTIMES.com, 6/4).
EXPANSION NOT ON THE HORIZON: Bettman yesterday said that the NHL is "not currently considering expansion despite the fact a new building is being built in Quebec City." Bettman: "That would cause us to have yet another team in the East. I’m not even sure how we deal with it." SPORTSNET's Chris Johnston noted there are "expected to be two or three outdoor games held" in '14-15, with warm weather markets "now considered a more real possibility after the success" of Ducks-Kings at Dodger Stadium. Bettman: "We learned a lot -- all good -- from playing in Dodger Stadium" (SPORTSNET.ca, 6/4). Bettman yesterday also made an appearance on Toronto-based CJCL-AM and said of the prospect of expanding to Seattle, "We're getting a lot of interest from Seattle, maybe more interest from Seattle in terms of number of parties than anywhere else. The building situation is very unsettled and frankly if there was no reasonable prospect of a building coming anytime soon in Seattle, there was really not a whole lot of point of people spinning their wheels continuing to express their interest" (QMI AGENCY, 6/4).
EARNING HIS SPOT: In Toronto, Bruce Arthur writes Bettman has "never ridden into June in a stronger position, with a shinier array of accomplishments." These are, for Bettman and "perhaps the NHL, the golden years" (TORONTO STAR, 6/5). In Vancouver, Cam Cole writes there was "no denying Bettman his moment in the sun." This has "undeniably" been a "terrific post-season." That the two Stanley Cup finalists, the Kings and Rangers, "had to play 21 and 20 games, respectively -- one fewer than the maximum -- just to get here is a testament to the top-to-bottom competitiveness of the playoff teams." The quality of the games, "for the most part, has been spectacular, too." Cole: "So Bettman wins 2013-14 by a knockout over the peanut gallery. Even the Las Vegas judges would give it to him by a decision" (VANCOUVER SUN, 6/5).
RIDING HIGH: The state of the NHL was discussed on ESPN's "Outside The Lines" yesterday, and ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose said, "I don’t think the NHL has ever been stronger than it is right now." Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson said the new CBA agreed to in January '13 "has proven to make things better." Davidson: "You’re seeing stronger ownership. There are more people who want to be involved in owning teams that are stronger financial people to make sure these teams are stable." He added, "I don’t think our league has ever been better when you think about the stability of ownership in this league." The Toronto Star's Arthur said all of Bettman's plans "came together at once." Arthur: "He’s got a TV deal north of the border and south of the border, national deals. He’s got the World Cup, which is going to come online probably within the next couple of years. At this point when you look at hockey, it has made such an enormous swing on almost every front. ... There are so few weak spots in hockey that it’s almost, to those who have covered it for a long time, like a different reality. It’s almost a different sport” ("OTL," ESPN, 6/4).
GREAT ONE AT GAME ONE: In N.Y., Pat Leonard notes Wayne Gretzky "dropped the opening puck" before last night's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final "to a standing ovation at Staples Center." Gretzky: "This is a special series for the National Hockey League. I don’t think there could be anything better right now with the excitement and the enthusiasm in New York with the Rangers and how they’re playing and how they won. The same as (Los Angeles). It just has been outstanding. For these two teams to be in the finals, I can’t describe it, it’s just wonderful" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/5).