Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

The Commish Speaks

added 7:07pm, You can now watch (link takes you to page with video) the interview if you wish…

Gary Bettman took part in a media Q & A today….

Q. Commissioner, concerning Pittsburgh, when is it going to be too late for them to reach any kind of an agreement on the building?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I don’t think it would be constructive or wise for me to say, ‘This is the date,’ because deadlines, as we’ve seen in lots of negotiations, can come and go. The fact is, we’ve got to be talking about weeks. We’ve got a schedule to do. Arrangements have to be made. My hope is that a building on terms that make sense to the franchise will be achievable in Pittsburgh and this will become a non-issue. But at some point in the not too distant future, in a matter of weeks, we have to start focusing with some certainty on what the schedule is going to look like.
Time is of the essence, but I wouldn’t want to overly portray an urgency today. It’s urgent, but it’s not imminently urgent, if you know what I mean. It will be shortly.

Q. Commissioner, Bill Daly mentioned yesterday that you received a new proposal for the IIHF agreement that includes Russia. Would you comment on that to say how reasonable it looks to you?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Actually, I’ve been busy the last 18 hours since we got the proposal. So I haven’t seen it in its entirety.
Bill tells me it’s interesting. It probably needs some work. But we haven’t had a chance to discuss it. We’ve been waiting for a while. It can wait until tomorrow, until I get done doing what we’re doing here. But I do take it as a good sign that on some basis, even though I don’t know what it is, the Russians are indicating a willingness to participate.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Good afternoon, and welcome to Dallas. Obviously it’s great to have everyone together for an All-Star game.
And I particularly want to thank Tom Hicks, Jim Lites, Doug Armstrong, the entire Stars organization and the city of Dallas for their hospitality, their hard work in making these events—and the opportunity to gather here—really special for all of us.
I also want to note, to congratulate the Stars on their incredible success in making youth hockey a part of the landscape in Texas, particularly here in Dallas-Fort Worth.
When the Stars arrived in ‘93, there were five sheets of ice in Dallas, and now there are 25. There were 250 young people playing organized hockey, and now they’re in excess of 5,000.
There were zero high school hockey teams, and now there are 70. There were eight travel teams in ‘93 and now there are 120.
This has been an incredible success story in terms of the development of the game. It’s a testament to the great fans we have here and to the Stars organization.
And it’s worth noting that the Dallas IceJets won the 12-and-under Tier One USA Hockey national championships last April. I congratulate everybody involved and it’s certainly exciting to be here with this level of interest as it’s developed.
Next year, as you all know, we gather for All-Star in Atlanta. And in ‘09 the All-Star events will be held in Montreal. The Canadiens will be celebrating their centennial, and we’re delighted to be a part of that event as they engage in what will be a year-long celebration.
I also want to take a moment to express my appreciation to our players. They deserve all the credit in the world for the way that they carry themselves and display professionalism. They’re just great representatives of our sport.
You know, the newspapers and the media carry all sorts of headlines on a regular basis concerning professional athletes. So I want to make clear that it’s a particular source of pride to me and to this game and to this League that our players conduct themselves as professionally and as admirably as they do both on and off the ice. They’re a credit to the game.
And the players, interestingly enough, have been energetic and supportive partners in the partnership that’s developed in the last year and a half. And we think that that joint participation, networking together, will only continue to grow and more and more people will get attracted to the game as a result.
I can give you three examples of how we’ve worked together relative to All-Star. We had tremendous input, and it was a great working relationship, as together we worked with Reebok to create the new uniform system. It wouldn’t have worked as smoothly or as well if they weren’t so much a part of the process.
The extra day that we built into the schedule for the All Star events made it easier, and we did it to have appearances in the community and participation in several marketing-related projects. We dedicated a hospital room for children at Cook Children’s Hospital, many of the players were in schools yesterday. This was another way, by working together, the players could be a part of the community for these events.
And tomorrow morning we’ll be having a meeting with business reps that the players have from each club, to talk about ways that we can continue to grow the game and continue to work together.
So the spirit of partnership is what we’ve envisioned and is clearly something that we think is important for the game as we move forward.
As far as the on-ice product is concerned, we continue to be pleased with the results. The feedback that we get from fans from the clubs and, in particular, the players, is they’re enjoying it. They like it. The focus on offense remains the priority. And it’s what the competition committee envisioned. It’s what the competition committee wants. And it is a constant effort that we will continue to be vigilant on as this season progresses and as we move forward.
And finally, before I take your questions, let me just give you a brief update from the Board of Governors. We had a good discussion on video review. While the Board didn’t mandate any changes, one of the things we made clear is that we’re going to be looking, in the not-too-distant future—probably over the summer—to upgrade the equipment in the system and probably move into high-definition equipment to make sure that we’re getting even-better looks at the puck.
We had an update on our digital business, particularly NHL.com, where traffic is up 27%, which is good to see. There was an update on Pittsburgh, and the update is there’s really nothing really to update on—other than work continues to see if an arrangement can be made between the team and the city to get an arena on terms that make sense.
And we had a discussion, which I think will be the final discussion for a while, on the schedule. It was determined that we’re going to finish out the three-year rotation before even considering making any changes.
I think everybody concluded that the best thing we could do right now, particularly with attendance as strong as it is, is maintain the third year of the three-year cycle before even considering doing anything else.
We kind of like it where it is. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but I think on balance, that’s the conclusion that everybody was most comfortable with.
We’re looking forward to tonight and tomorrow night and the other events, and I’m happy to take your questions.

Q. Commissioner, concerning Pittsburgh, when is it going to be too late for them to reach any kind of an agreement on the building?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I don’t think it would be constructive or wise for me to say, ‘This is the date,’ because deadlines, as we’ve seen in lots of negotiations, can come and go. The fact is, we’ve got to be talking about weeks. We’ve got a schedule to do. Arrangements have to be made. My hope is that a building on terms that make sense to the franchise will be achievable in Pittsburgh and this will become a non-issue. But at some point in the not too distant future, in a matter of weeks, we have to start focusing with some certainty on what the schedule is going to look like.
Time is of the essence, but I wouldn’t want to overly portray an urgency today. It’s urgent, but it’s not imminently urgent, if you know what I mean. It will be shortly.

Q. Commissioner, Bill Daly mentioned yesterday that you received a new proposal for the IIHF agreement that includes Russia. Would you comment on that to say how reasonable it looks to you?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Actually, I’ve been busy the last 18 hours since we got the proposal. So I haven’t seen it in its entirety.
Bill tells me it’s interesting. It probably needs some work. But we haven’t had a chance to discuss it. We’ve been waiting for a while. It can wait until tomorrow, until I get done doing what we’re doing here. But I do take it as a good sign that on some basis, even though I don’t know what it is, the Russians are indicating a willingness to participate.

Q. Wanted to follow-up on Pittsburgh. Curious, can you tell us what you’re hearing in terms of how negotiations are going? Seems to me kind of an ebb and flow there.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: You know, it used to drive me crazy in collective bargaining when people would comment on the ebb and flow of negotiations, so I’m not going to do it.
I suppose as long as they’re talking, that’s a good thing. And our goal, our hope, is that the Penguins stay in Pittsburgh. But it’s going to be a reality with hard decisions locally relative to the new building.

Q. Cal Nicholls after the Board of Governors meeting, was frustrated—said he wished you had stepped in to get this through today. He wanted to see the change to go to the pre-lockout schedule. Can you react to that?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: He didn’t share that view with me. The fact is there wasn’t enough support from the clubs to make a change, which leads me to conclude, because we’re in the middle of a three-year rotation, a number of clubs only thought it fair to conclude it. And sometimes people lose sight of the fact that while some of you think I throw lightning bolts, the fact is I do report to a Board.
And the Board on certain things has the final say. Actually, ultimately, the Board on anything it wants can have final say. But I’m comfortable that finishing the three-year rotation is the right thing to do.
And whether or not we need to change after that, we have ample time to consider. What’s interesting about the schedule, unlike lots of things that we’ve done as a League, where everybody can focus and do it on a League-wide basis, the schedule is kind of personal. Market-specific. Rivalry-specific. It gets emotional. And in the absence of what I call a catalyzing event, or a reason to have to do it, it’s more difficult.
So, for example, if Pittsburgh has to move, I guarantee you this issue will get resolved. If they don’t have to move, you know, then maybe we’ll just sit tight and see.
So I think that the prudent, safe course was to continue what the Board voted a year and a half ago, and that had a three-year life to it in terms of how it played out.
That’s not an irrational, irresponsible or necessarily unwise decision. And the research we do with our fans is more fans than not like what we have.

Q. Is that what you personally wanted, Gary?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think to the extent that there were some concerns by some quarters that they prefer to see every team at least once—although I think that’s being made into perhaps a larger deal, because it affects five teams in any given year—that’s really the difference in this. But I think since everybody went into this with the expectation that we would rotate through the three years, I’m comfortable with seeing that through.

Q. Gary, two-part question: Just assuming that Pittsburgh thing gets done, as I’m sure everyone would like to see, just what are your thoughts in general knowing that the new arena, knowing the market, just knowing Tim (Leiweke), just what is the league’s general opinion of Kansas City as a potential future market?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That’s an interesting question, because that presumes we’ve looked into it with any degree of diligence. We have, over the last year, received expressions of interest from a number of cities. And we haven’t done anything with that. We’ve been focused on dealing with the franchises that we have.
I know from Tim that there’s a very nice new building there. But we’re focused on having 30 healthy teams right now—where they are. So we haven’t looked at a lot of people and said, ‘Well, what if Pittsburgh doesn’t get the building?’ The answer is, we’ll deal with the ‘what-if’ if it happens. We’re really focused on all the teams, including Pittsburgh, where they are.

Q. The second part of the question then is: Now that you have your labor agreement, labor seems good and all the nice things you’re talking about, going on with the league. And maybe this dovetails with maybe realignment or future schedules, but I’m getting to where are you in expansion? When do you think it will be time to maybe go to 32?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That’s not a position or a question I’m prepared to answer because we don’t have any plans right now to do that.

Q. So the climate is not right for expansion then in the next—
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: It’s nothing that we have any plans to do right now.

Q. Commissioner, while we were having a discussion with Lindy Ruff last week about obstruction, where are you with obstruction? He felt by a tiny bit it’s just not being called as much as it was. Sometimes you can get that first tug in with your glove or your stick. He didn’t say a lot. But he says he’s seeing a difference. How do you feel?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: It’s interesting: We get calls from clubs saying we call too much.
I think part of it is a genuine belief by Lindy that he may have seen it in some games. A part of it may be that the team may be going through a stretch where it’s not playing as well as it had at other points in the season.
I don’t doubt his intentions are good intentions. But the standard is something we’re monitoring every day. We’re not advocating tolerating any slippage. We intend to maintain the standard. That is the instruction that the officiating staff gets from Steve Walkom and we’re all committed to maintaining it.
Some of the critiquing and review of officiating can be a bit subjective. We understand that. And we respect it. But the fact of the matter is we think the game is still open. The feedback we’re getting is overwhelmingly positive. But it requires work. And you know we have some off games. We know we do. We don’t like it. We want no ‘off’ games. But we’re committed to maintaining the standard.

Q. Gary, can you clarify what your role was today in the discussion about the schedule? Did you speak to it? Did you make your feelings known?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Yes, I made my feelings known that I was comfortable with where it was and I would be comfortable with a certain change. Because of where we are in the cycle.
See, I’m a big believer that—particularly in a competitive business—when you have expectations, you need to fulfill those. And there was a three-year expectation that was laid out there. Having said that, there was an alternative that I said to people, “If you want to make a change, this is the one you should make.’

Q. Do you have the power to unilaterally impose, could you have decided today—
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: No. As I mentioned before, I don’t have—how we change the schedule is a By-Law change. It requires a two-thirds vote.

Q. Gary, the governor of Pennsylvania recently said that the arena deal being offered to the Penguins is the best offer to any NHL team in recent years. Is that accurate?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I’m not sure what the last offer was, so I can’t comment on it. If it’s not accurate, I don’t want to get into a public debate with the governor. I’d rather he be dealing with the owner of the Penguins—at least at this stage.

Q. Which schedule did you like, Gary?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I felt that if we were going to make the change it should be the one that had the least amount of change from where we were.

Q. Reverting to the old one?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: No, no, going to the partial, where you take one game out of the division. And, by the way, there were some downsides to doing that. So this was not an easy thing.
You know, what’s interesting is: Last year, we set an attendance record. And this year, while I know there’s been a lot of speculation about attendance, attendance has gotten stronger every month. So as we sit here today, on either an announced or paid basis—the same thing for this purpose—we’re off point-five, or half of one percent. That’s about 80 people a game. And January, to date, is the highest-attended January we’ve ever had, including last year when we set the attendance record.
So in terms of people attending games, they’re speaking. And, again, the research we’ve done is more fans than not like the schedule the way it is. So if we were going to tweak it, I wanted to only do it modestly.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your deal with VERSUS and are you worried that it’s still an unknown in many American markets?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: It’s growing. We knew that the distribution would be the trade-off in the short-term for treatment. They’ve been giving us priority treatment. They treat us very important. And they’ve grown over eight million households in the year-plus that we’ve been with them.
I think they’ll continue to grow. I think it will continue to get better. I think the number of people watching on VERSUS will continue to grow. I think they’ll work on acquiring other sports properties which will drive more people there.
This is not going to be a decision that’s easily judged in the short-term. This will be a decision where we’re going to look back in three or four years and decide whether or not it was the right decision.
As we sit here today, I still maintain that for this game, long-term, this was the right decision.

Q. Gary, any update on divisional realignment? There’s been some talk looking at other—
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: No, no, that’s not something that had any support at all. Teams overwhelmingly like the current structure of two conferences, three divisions in each. There are some clubs—Minnesota and Dallas—that play most of the divisional games in other time zones, and in an ideal world, they’d like to see an adjustment. But based on our geography, there’s no way to deal with that.

Q. You’ve been talking about the future. Is there any concern as it relates to Pittsburgh franchise that has one of the most, if not the most, marketable player in Sidney Crosby, and were their future may lay, whether it be Kansas City or Houston or somewhere?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Actually, I think it would be a shame if a building on the right terms didn’t materialize so that the terrific fans in Pittsburgh wouldn’t have the opportunity to see Sidney Crosby get older and better.
But because of the composition of that team, if in the unfortunate event that it has to move, I have no doubt it will be successful wherever it goes.
But just so we get the quote right: We want the team to stay in Pittsburgh, but it needs a building to do that. And keep in context, people are focusing on the time frame of that. How long has Mario Lemieux been trying to get a building? Seven years. The Isle of Capri could have put this to rest like that. And for whatever reason it’s been a very difficult and belabored process.
Having said that, we haven’t given up yet.

Q. You said a couple of weeks ago when you were in Pittsburgh the Isle of Capri was the best (offer) that’s expired. Are you still confident or do you have confidence in proposed Plan B or what city officials are offering now?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Whatever is being offered needs to be refined, needs to be specific, needs to be negotiated at least at this point with the ownership of the Penguins.

Q. Was there a vote on the schedule change?

Q. Specifically on what you suggested would be the change you should make?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We voted on a variety of things, and on balance everybody decided to stay where we were.

Q. By what vote?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I don’t remember the exact vote.

Q. Large majority?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: It requires a two-thirds vote. It didn’t get it. If it had a large majority, it would have passed.

Q. How long did you spend on it and would you describe the discussion as passionate?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I’ve been in more passionate meetings than that. It was interesting. There was a good dialogue. It was a good discussion. I think we spent well over an hour on it. But you have to remember this was the tail end. I wasn’t surprised at the result because we had discussed this at the meeting in December. We had formed the committee. The committee issued a report.
We polled the clubs on a variety of alternatives in advance of the meeting. And it was clear going into the meeting that no one alternative had support. Then, on balance, it looked like we were going to stay where we were.

Q. Gary, you talked about attendance earlier. The Predators, top of the league in standings right now, but are near the bottom in terms of attendance. What’s your opinion on the level of hockey interest in Nashville?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The attendance is up compared to last year, which is a good thing. I’d like to see attendance stronger in Nashville. I know Craig Leipold would like to see attendance stronger.
I know that’s one of the reasons he’s made it known that he would like some local ownership to assist him, because I think we’ve got great fans.
And interestingly enough, I think as a percentage basis, there were more individual season ticket holders in Nashville than most other clubs.
I think it’s really the corporate community that hasn’t stepped up. And I’m hoping that, over time, that changes.

Q. Gary, is it too early in this Collective Bargaining Agreement for you to assess how it’s working from your perspective or can you give some kind of assessment in terms of what is going right? Is there anything that you did not foresee?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Actually, for the most part it’s working the way we had anticipated. Revenues came back strong. Fan support came back strong. Attendance came back strong. Competitive balance has been terrific.
As we sit here today, 27 clubs are either playoff-eligible or within 10 points of making the playoffs. So we’ve got good competitive races going on. And we’re paying the exact percentage that the Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for. To the extent we go over in the course of a season, we’ll get it back in the escrow. So it’s working the way we had hoped.

Q. Can you talk about how it came about for Mike Modano to be ambassador for tonight and as an American-born player what he’s meant for the NHL?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: How it came about is, I asked him. You know, Mike has been the face of this franchise since it’s been here. And as we said on the phone, of all the ironies, the All-Star game where he’s injured happens to be in Dallas.
So I made it clear to him that we wanted him a part of the events and the festivities, and he could have gone on vacation, but that’s not in his DNA. He said, ‘Whatever you want, I’ll do.”
So he’s happy to be a part of it. And I think he’s missing being on the ice tonight and tomorrow as much as we’re missing having him on the ice. It’s a shame that he’s not able to play but we’ll keep him close.

Q. Gary, can you talk about how you’re looking forward to seeing Crosby and Ovechkin together on the ice tomorrow night and what they have done and can do for the popularity of the league?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: You know, we’re blessed with having an incredible crop of young players. Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Phaneuf, the list goes on and on. This is an exciting time. Tremendously exciting time. All-Star games are intended to be fun and I think the young players are going to have a particularly good time with it.
So it should be a fun event for everybody.

Q. If I can bounce back to the schedule for a minute. In a situation like this, a majority of the teams, meaning more than 15, vote to make a change and some are saying 18 or 19, what’s the advantage to two-thirds majority as opposed to simple majority? That you should look at in the constitution and is that something that—
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: There are certain things that are particularly important to an organization. Businesses, a League, you don’t make certain changes unless you have what’s called a super majority.
So, for example, for a new owner to be admitted in the League, it requires a three-quarter vote.
And so rule changes require a two-thirds vote, because you want stability. You want continuity. And you don’t want change unless a substantial number of people believe in the change. It reduces the politics and gives the organization the stability it needs going forward.

Q. Gary, there have been a number of reports talking about the All Star voting as it relates to Rory (Fitzpatrick) in Vancouver. And the suggestion statistically it would seem impossible that he was not voted as a starter and the implication that the league rigged that?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We don’t do things like that. It’s interesting: first we wouldn’t do it because we don’t do business that way. But what would be the margin? If he got elected he got elected. Then the fans will have spoken.
The fact is we had 27 million votes cast in six weeks. I think last time we had All Star balloting we had six million votes cast in eight weeks, testament to wireless and Internet balloting.
But the reason you have the fans involved is you want the fans to have fun with it. My guess is that the “Elect Rory” campaign was probably a catalyst for lots of the voting, which is fun. I think fans had fun with it. And it probably ran out of steam.

Q. Did you consider inviting Rory here as is your privilege?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: No, because there were other All Stars that we invited and there were probably some All Stars who had to be omitted. But I think the fans and Rory had some fun with it. That’s a good thing. That’s what it should be about.

Q. Gary, with regards to the Penguins, what was the Board of Governors’ interest in terms of specifically the Eastern Conference teams and the Atlantic Division teams in maintaining that Pittsburgh Penguins stay? There’s lots of economic impact factors if that team were to move?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That’s not how the discussion went. The update that I gave was simply with everything that gets written and speculated about, I kind of like the governors to know the real story from me. And to the extent I haven’t had a chance to talk to a couple of them in a couple of weeks, this is a chance to tell everybody the whole thing. The economic impact on the other teams is not the issue. The issue is going to be will the Penguins get a building in Pittsburgh that makes economic sense.
There’s no doubt that this team needs a new building. The Pirates have a new building. The Steelers have a new building. It’s not just about the Penguins having the oldest building in NHL, they have the oldest building in Pittsburgh. I think the fans have gotten used to the amenities and comfort of going to a state-of-the-art building.

Q. Gary, you mentioned the growth of hockey. You mentioned the growth of hockey here over the years in your opening statements. Is that something that surprised you at all?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: No. I think hockey does well when people have a chance to experience particularly the NHL level. But I think it’s a testament to the job that the Stars have done in terms of building rinks and developing hockey programs. The fact you go from no high school hockey to 70 teams, that’s a real big deal and you need an infrastructure to do that. The fact there are now 25 sheets of ice, that’s a big deal.
Somebody has to be committed to doing that and I think the Stars have been committed to the grassroots programs and to getting kids involved and it’s showing up.

Q. Gary, when Wayne Gretzky was a player in this league, I think we can all agree he was the single most important marketing asset that we’ve had. He played in every single rink all season long. Everyone played each other. Now with Ovechkin and Crosby, what would be the arguments against not having these guys play in every rink?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: When the issues of the schedule are debated, who comes in to your building, there are plenty of teams that in the West that the West would like to see, and there are plenty of teams that the fans don’t care about seeing. It’s a balancing act.
So for every team you want to see with an Ovechkin and Crosby, there are some teams you don’t have an interest in seeing. It’s a balancing act.
The issue we’re discussing was it was never a discussion that took much serious weight of playing a home-and-home against every team. There was just no interest in doing that. So we’re really talking about five clubs in a given year. And that was the issue. And again, because we’re in the middle of a cycle, everybody ultimately concluded it was best to continue the cycle.
There was an adjustment that could have been made to deal with it in the short-term, and that may be made after next season when we complete the cycle. But I think the notion that we started something and teams have had the benefit or detriment of it for two years, the other teams and those teams want to see it completed.
I’m not suggesting, and nobody should take for a moment, the notion that this is the schedule for the next 100 years. We’re going to finish the cycle and then we’ll have to decide what to do after that.
I think that’s the best way to read this. We started something. We’re going to finish it.

Q. Talk about all the growth of hockey in the sport in Dallas, but look at south Florida as a market, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, do you think it’s stagnated and does that worry you it hasn’t grown as much as other places?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: It’s grown. There’s more hockey than there was. Are there as many rinks in South Florida, by way of example, as there are in Dallas? The answer is no. But that will take time.
Adopting a sport is something that doesn’t happen in five or ten years. It takes time. It gets passed on from generation. From parents to kids. But I have no doubt in the future of the south Florida market. It’s a great market. They’re great sports fans.
The climate, I suppose, poses a challenge, but that’s something that you can deal with over time. I’m not concerned.
I think it’s unfair to perhaps compare south Florida to Dallas. The Stars have done an amazingly spectacular job. And they’ve had, you know, Tom Hicks as an owner for a very long period of time. He’s been committed to developing the sport here.

Q. Gary, to what extent is the league working towards making more games available on the Internet?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That’s something we’re working on. We’re making games available on Google, streamed. I think actually 850,000 game views in the last two months—I may be a little off—have been streamed to people more than 48 hours after they’ve been played. So this notion that hockey fans are tech-savvy and like to use the Internet is being borne out.
We’re working the gating issues. We don’t want games coming back into the markets where the regional sports channel, much like on DirectTV, on an EchoStar, we have to protect the local markets with gating. We’re working with that technology. And as soon as we get that put to bed, we’ll probably start streaming games.

Q. Is that what baseball does?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Baseball streams games.

Q. They have the gating issues resolved?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Our gating issues and their gating issues may be a little different. But we’re working on it.

Q. Gary, I have two questions. Number one, the issue of larger nets I gather was not discussed today?

Q. Is that something that might be revisited?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: You know, it’s a good question. Sometimes those things which are talked about are options and sometimes they get confused with agendas that are going to be pursued. And there has been a discussion that’s been had that says, ‘Okay, if the goaltenders are too big and scoring isn’t as high as you’d like it, what’s one way to deal with it?’ Obviously one way is bigger nets. It doesn’t mean we’re going to do it, it just means that people are discussing all of the options.
The discussion also gets a little more focused when you say, ‘Okay, let’s shrink the goaltenders, let’s get the equipment smaller.’ And then the goaltenders say, ‘Well, not so fast. We’re going to get hurt.’
So if you don’t want to shrink the goaltender equipment but you think the goaltenders are too big, then what do you do? Then you have to expose more surface area in the net. I’m not advocating, saying, ‘We’re doing it.’ But that’s how the discussion goes, because people want to look at the options.
Having said that, I think we’re averaging six goals a game. Last year at this time we were averaging 6.2 goals a game. The decline in goals is really the decline of power-play goals. And there’s been substantially fewer power plays. I think we’re averaging 1.8 less penalties a game, which I think is not a testament to the standard slipping. I think the officials and the players are continuing to do a great job adjusting.
But there are less power plays, less power-play goals. I think even-strength goals are up a bit. So taking that into account, and looking at a two-tenths of a goal decline, I don’t think anybody is running off and doing anything right now.

Q. My other question concerns AEG owning the Kings and having the—running the arena in Kansas City. Is there not some conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest where the interests of the Kings and any team that might come into Kansas City might clash?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, the answer is we have lots of owners who are in lots of different businesses that intersect with other owners’. There are some owners who actually run buildings that other clubs are in. That’s not unheard of in all the sports. But having said that, obviously if a team goes into a building that’s run or controlled or owned by the owner of another team, then we’re going to have to make sure that we’re comfortable with the business dealings between the two.
There are concessionaires who are involved in multi-teams. Own a team. As I said there are building operators. That’s not an unfamiliar issue and it doesn’t pose necessarily a conflict as long as you know what you’re dealing with and you watch what’s going on.

Q. Gary, you talked about the success of the Dallas franchise and the way hockey has grown here in the Midwest. Talk a little farther west, specifically in Anaheim with the Samuelis and Brian Burke has done with the Ducks?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: They got off to a good start, went through the doldrums and then came back in a big way. If I had to computer- generate an owner for that market and that team, he would have been it. I believe he’s the biggest philanthropist in Orange County. He controls the building. He’s passionate about the Ducks and he’s passionate about Orange County. I think he was just what the doctor ordered for that franchise, and it shows.
And Brian, who we all know and love, continues to give great quotes and be a great guy. He worked with me for five years and I won’t take credit for any of that.
Enjoy the rest of the events and thank you.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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