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Abel to Yzerman

A Fan Asks Gary Bettman For Answers: Transcribing Fingernails On A Chalkboard

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?

Gary:  Yes.

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.

Filed in: | Abel to Yzerman | Permalink


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Osrt's avatar

I’m just not convinced we lose Ritola to the waiver wire.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas

I know we (wing blogosphere) have had this conversation before, but I wonder if Leino’s success last year make our throwaway more appealing. There are too many free agents out there vying for spots so Ritola might just go below the radar. I hope that works out.

Per Gramps, I’m wondering why Stevie Y hasn’t called Lilja yet. I have no idea what Tampa’s defense of cap situation look like but the basic idea makes a lot of sense.

Posted by Osrt on 09/01/10 at 03:15 PM ET

WingsFaninCO's avatar

Unfortunately, H2H2 comes at a time when I won’t be able to get out of some upcoming field work and I will miss the IPA-fest.  But, if anyone is in the rocky mountain area and wants to get their taste buds knocked to the floor, let me know.  I have made it a point to sample and mentally ctalog the local brews out here (especially the IPAs).  Hands down winner: O’Dell’s IPA.  And the brewery happens to have it on nitro tap right now…yeah…that’s a bad recipe for my wallet. 

Sully, as for your recommendation of the Breckenridge brews…they aren’t bad.  I just have a hard time with anything made by those yuppies in Breck, it’s like Boulder Jr.  I have heard mixed reviews about the Great American Beer Festival…which is why I haven’t attended yet.  I have heard the beer is good, and the brewers are better, but the taster-size cups, lack of bathrooms, long lines for everything, and general failure of the venue make it a rough time.

Posted by WingsFaninCO on 09/01/10 at 03:33 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I wonder if Leino’s success last year make our throwaway more appealing.

It’s possible, but the way I saw part of the Leino situation last year was that many people had already come to the idea that maybe all Leino needed was a change of scenery and it at least temporarily worked for the Flyers (remember that Leino hardly got a sniff of playing time before injuries hit Philly as well).  The going scouting report on Ritola is that they’re worried his skills have plateaud and he won’t develop past frustratingly inconsistent third-line play in the bigs.  I have faith Ritola can do that, but given the glut of more established talent with arguably as much upside out there, hiding him in plain sight has a better chance of working out.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/01/10 at 04:06 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

Per Gramps, I’m wondering why Stevie Y hasn’t called Lilja yet. I have no idea what Tampa’s defense of cap situation look like but the basic idea makes a lot of sense.
Posted by Osrt

Every morning I expect to read that Lilja has fired his agent.  He is getting poor advice from someone.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 09/01/10 at 04:13 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

Miller and Eaves are both keepers.  If either one is squeezed out it will probably have something to do with their lifestyle that we will never hear about.  Their on ice performance will have nothing to do with it.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 09/01/10 at 04:16 PM ET

WestWing's avatar

I’ve tried probably close to 40 IPAs by now…

At last count our stores sell upwards of 60 different IPAs.  Clearly the predominate style on the west coast in general, the northwest particularly and Oregon above all others (as this is the hop-growing capital of the US), right now it seems like there is some sort of un-official contest to see who can make the most amped up, hopped up, highly malted ale around—double IPAs, triple IPAs, Cascadian Dark IPAs—it’s a freakin’ IPA revolution, and frankly a lot of them just aren’t very good.  More is not always better when it comes to hops, but Ninkasi nails it.

We should all bring at least one six of our favorite craft to H2H2 and have a bad ass tasting.

Drunken debauchery eh?  Sure, I could be pursuaded to participate in that.  Anybody else up for some deep-fried walleye and an ice cold domestic lager at the Anchor Bar before the game?

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 09/01/10 at 04:17 PM ET

SYF's avatar

At last count our stores sell upwards of 60 different IPAs.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 09/01/10 at 02:17 PM ET

How the hell do you guys do it?

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 09/01/10 at 04:25 PM ET


Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/01/10 at 02:06 PM ET

Leino and Quincey are 2 examples of guys that, for different reasons, were unable to stick with the Wings and made the most of an opportunity with a different team. I think the Wings’ “throwaways” are very attractive to other teams because the Wings take the time to develop them, and usually have at least some experience in the NHL. However, out of the prospects or younger guys that the Wings have let go, only Quiincey has shown any consistency. Leino could turn out to be pretty good, but it could also have just been a fluke run. If the Wings decide that Ritola is not ready at this point, I think they are more than willing to let him go and take their chances that no one claims him. But like Gramps said, Miller and Eaves have both proven their worth and value to the team; I’d keep both of them over Ritola.

Posted by GrahamWIIM from Chicago via Toronto on 09/01/10 at 04:35 PM ET

WestWing's avatar

How the hell do you guys do it?

Posted by SYF from Las Vegas, NV on 09/01/10 at 02:25 PM ET

It rains a lot here.  The more it rains, the more we drink. 

Seriously though, last I checked there are about 25 breweries in Portland, at least that many more in the surrionding areas, and way too many brewpubs to count.  There’s more beer made per capita here than in Munich.  Beer is like a fuching religion in these parts.  They don’t call it Beervana for nothin’.

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 09/01/10 at 05:18 PM ET

stayouttamalibu's avatar

Posted by WestWing from Portland, Oregon on 09/01/10 at 03:18 PM ET

I was just visiting a good friend in Salem and we went up to Portland for a day, it was nice because I’ve been there countless times but always on business so I never really had time to go explore a whole lot. We went to the Rogue distillery and the Deschutes brewery. Cool places. We also went to the McMenamins Kennedy School. That place is incredible.

Posted by stayouttamalibu from California on 09/01/10 at 06:42 PM ET

edillac's avatar

I have a hunch that Ritola will turn out to be and really decent NHL-er, nothing more than that;a hunch and really decent,not as a PK-er but offensivelly
one of Eaves or Miller should go,our PK shouldnt be that awfull anyway to desperatelly need them both on the team

Posted by edillac from isolation on 09/01/10 at 06:56 PM ET

Twig in Houston's avatar

niemi to the sharks. build a dunkin donuts outside the shark tank if you wanna be a millionaire.

Posted by Twig in Houston from Houston, TX on 09/01/10 at 07:51 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Will visit sometime, West.  I’m completely a Guinness and Jameson’s man but I’m willing to try some new brew.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 09/01/10 at 08:06 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

our PK shouldnt be that awfull anyway to desperatelly need them both on the team
Posted by edillac

1. They won’t both be healthy, all of the time.
2. One top PK’er cannot kill 4 Min (Dbl minor) penalty.
3. Usually when it is 3 on 5, one of your top PK’ers is the second man in the box.
4. If another team is going to pick up one of your players…which one do you not want to have to play against.  (the defensive specialist will always hurt you more than a 15 goal a year offensive threat).

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 09/01/10 at 08:13 PM ET

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About Abel to Yzerman

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: wphoulihan@gmail.com