Abel to Yzerman
by VooX on 08/27/10 at 05:35 PM ET
A lot of people find it difficult to listen to Bettman interviews. Some mentioned in the comment section of this post that they couldn’t listen to all of my interview with Gary at the recent Shanahan Summit.
The A2Y interns are not fans of Bettman, either. When I asked them to transcribe our interview, they kept muttering something about wanting hazard pay and trauma counseling for the job. Knowing A2Y’s budget has been blown on hookers, puppies, fire-trucks, and H2H bail, I sent them home and started to transcribe my interview with Gary Bettman myself.
As part of A2Y’s fair and biased forum, I will simply give you the transcript of our interview now. I’ll save my commentary for another post, including my feelings on Gary Bettman referring to the 2004-2005 lockout as “the offseason”.
VooX: So I write for a blog called “Abel to Yzerman”, you may or may not know about us. I will say this, I respect you coming and talking to me, because we have said some pretty mean things about you in the past.
Gary: I hadn’t noticed.
VooX: That’s okay. We’re not looking for any extra viewers, we’re okay with 19. Question to you from a fan, first of all, what gave you the idea to do this?
Gary: Well, it’s always good to be reflective of what you have, and what you might be able to do to make it better, or to conclude that what you have is good enough the way it is. We did this five years ago, during the offseason, and it has paid excellent dividends in terms of the way the game is being played now and the way the game has evolved. So the thought was this is a good time to, since we’re coming off a season where I think most people think the game is as good as it’s ever been on the ice, that this was a good time to take a good look at it; and having Brendan Shanahan working with us, I thought it would be a good project for him to do.
VooX: Going back, Shanahan has had his run-ins with your office for disciplinary issues. He’s one of the grittier players, and a credit, maybe, to bringing that type of player into the NHL. What made you reach out and offer him a position?
Gary: I’ve known Brendan over the years, I’ve always respected the way he’s conducted himself on and off the ice. I think he’s had a hall-of-fame career, and I think he is a smart guy who is passionate about the game. And he was looking to do something after his playing career ended, and we both thought coming to the league office would be a good fit for both of us.
VooX: Is he going to be a good fit as well coming up to the new CBA negotiations?
Gary: We haven’t focused on that yet. I’m not sure why people are focusing on our CBA negotiations, they are a couple of years away ‘til we reach the end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was just extended an extra year.
VooX: Okay. I have a question regarding the cap. Now, there’s mixed emotions about caps, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of arguments. In economics, we learn that if there is a salary cap, or a price ceiling or floor, you generate not only inefficiencies in the market, but you also generate what’s known as “black markets”. Now, obviously, the NHL doesn’t have a black market, but the KHL is thriving. Does the salary cap give the KHL more opportunity to get players they who otherwise fit in, and give them more legitimacy in Europe?
Gary: First of all, I’m not sure that everybody would agree that the KHL’s “thriving”. And secondly, the fact is, overwhelmingly, the players that want to play in the best hockey league in the world, want to play in the NHL. But we’re not concerned about the KHL. We wish them well, but we don’t view them with concern.
VooX: Would a way to have NHL make, maybe, some inroads into Europe as having a development league for, maybe, teams or players who can’t fit under the cap to play in another league that’s NHL-based, not KHL-based, would that be a good way to break into Europe?
Gary: Well there are leagues in Sweden, and Finland, and Germany, and so your question presumes that the only two leagues in the world are the NHL and the KHL, and that’s just not the case. And we try to be very respectful of those other leagues, and what they mean for their countries.
VooX: Okay. Another question I have is regarding fan access to online content. You’ve mentioned before that you consider NHL fans to be among the most media-savvy and technology-savvy. And yet I know, we’re Red Wings fans, we have a lot of people spread around the country, because of Michigan’s economy, who have a tough time following games particularly on networks like, maybe, Versus where it’s not available in their area. Are you happy with the situation with Versus?
Gary: Absolutely. They do a great job covering the game; they’ve grown to about 78 million homes. People have gravitated to watching Versus and, in fact, I think the first two rounds in the playoffs were the most viewed ever on national cable TV this year, which is a testament to Versus.
VooX: I’d like to mention that there was the Versus blackout on DirectTV last year. What was the NHL’s position trying to get them back on the air during that time?
Gary: Well, the problem has been fixed, DirectTV is now carrying Versus, as I said, as are most of the other major cable and satellite providers. It’s not unusual, in this evolving area, for there to be carriage disputes. This was one of a number that happened last year. But it’s been resolved, and it’s behind us.
VooX: Is the resolution of that dispute due to the NHL’s pressure or was it more due to the pressure of the UFC, who was having their first televised event that same week (the resolution was solved)?
Gary: I don’t think it had anything to do with either. I think it had to do with the fact that Comcast, which owns Versus, and DirectTV were able to reach an agreement on the terms of carriage for a long period of time. One event never defines the carriage agreements, that’s a naive view of the world if you think that’s how those decisions get made. Much longer term focus goes into that.
VooX: Coming up, there will be re-negotiations on other networks. Do you expect similar resistance to Versus’ request for more carriage fees?
Gary: You’re presuming that Versus is going to ask for more carriage fees.
VooX: Okay, that is an assumption. Assuming that they do, do you think that people will be amenable to it?
Gary: I don’t try to speculate as to what people may or may not do, on things that may or may not happen.
VooX: Okay. Just a couple more questions.
Handler: One more question, I need him.
VooX: Okay. Before your time as commissioner, did you get a chance to pay for many games in the NHL to have a chance to watch them?
Gary: Did I what?
VooX: Did you pay for many tickets before you became commissioner of the NHL, were you a fan before you became commissioner?
VooX: Going back, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into hockey?
Gary: I grew up in New York, where we went from one to three teams during the time I was growing up, and I was a huge a fan when I went to Cornell University, being a season ticket holder for my four years there.
VooX: Thank you for your time, Gary.
Gary: Thank you.
VooX: I appreciate that.
If you wish to download the .mp3, here it is.
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Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977. No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y. Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation. There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature. Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org