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Bettman: “there are people who believe that the game has never been better”

Jun 27, 2012, 1:19 PM EDT

Gary Bettman AP

As the Sept. 15 expiration of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA creeps closer, “there are people who believe that the game has never been better,” said league commissioner Gary Bettman in a wide-ranging interview with Sports Business Journal.

Presumably Bettman doesn’t disagree with those people, as he references “the competitive balance” and “the excitement and the entertainment the game has provided.”

The business of hockey has never been better either. Revenues have grown 50 percent since 2006-07, from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion.

Suffice to say it was a far different story prior to the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. Numerous teams were in dire financial straits back then, and the on-ice product, bogged down by clutching and grabbing, left much to be desired.

The result was a salary cap, aka “cost certainty.”

“(We) knew during the year off that (the fans) understood our problems and wanted us to fix them,” Bettman said. “So I wasn’t surprised that with a healthier foundation, we could grow the game in ways the game had never seen.”

All of which begs the question – if everything is going so well, why are so many people predicting another work stoppage?

At this point, all we can do is speculate. But perhaps the answer lies with the players’ association, led by new chief Donald Fehr.

Perhaps this time it will be the union that goes on the offensive, looking to claw back some of what it surrendered in the last negotiation.

Perhaps all the good news coming out of the NHL offices is a way to sell the status quo, despite speculation the owners will attempt to cut the players’ share of revenue from 57 percent to 50 percent, or even lower.

With CBA talks reportedly set to begin Friday, we should start to learn more about the positions each side will be taking.

  1. Jay - Jun 27, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    I will take the unpopular stance and say that I like Bettman. He saw Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, etc. He’s got great taste in music. He’s doing the best he can I am sure. Everyone makes mistakes. You just keep learning and roll with the punches.

    • noisetheorem - Jun 27, 2012 at 3:15 PM

      Pardon me, but what does seeing Hendrix have to do with running a professional sport? My dad met Hendrix once…so I guess he is qualified to run the NFL?

      • Jay - Jul 6, 2012 at 4:13 PM

        Well, last I heard, the NHL is making more money than ever. It couldn’t be that bad. My feeling is that if he has respect for great artists and music, I would have more respect for him than I would for someone who doesn’t care about music at all, or who listens to what passes for music nowadays. I am not well versed on the business operations as you possibly are. I think he’s ok. I could probably have a great conversation with him. That’s all I can base it on. But other people would base their opinions on what they themselves stand to gain financially.

    • imleftcoast - Jun 27, 2012 at 4:39 PM

      Hitler was a huge Wagner fan. Wagner wrote some beautiful music. Ergo, Hitler had some good points? Ah, no.

  2. lostpuppysyndrome - Jun 27, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    There’s a difference between predicting a work stoppage and fearing a work stoppage. So far, the only people I’ve seen fanning the flames of a predicted work stoppage is you media folks. Is there a legitimate chance? Well, it’s happened once already, so sure but nothing has happened yet. Both sides seem confident and amiable (so far), and there don’t appear to be any major issues of contention (again, so far). The owners and the NHLPA hopefully learned their lesson from the last time and they should all be taken out back and shot if they repeat the same mistakes as last time.

  3. danphipps01 - Jun 27, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    There are also no small few who feel it hasn’t been worse in a while, Gary. Some of us liked it better when soaring headshots weren’t a weekly occurrence and more than five players in the entire NHL crossed the forty-goal mark.

    • danphipps01 - Jun 27, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      Four, as it turns out. Apparently even that was too optimistic. =/

    • dmfc1112 - Jun 27, 2012 at 9:35 PM

      I, for one, miss the days like 92-93 when the NHL had about 20 players over 100 points and maybe 10 players with 50 goals. gee what rule was NOT in place then?? the instigator maybe?? Skill guys had more room to work cause the role of enforcer meant something. So 20 years later I ask this: Are a few pre-meditated fights really a bigger detriment to the game than constant cheap shots??

      • superross - Jun 27, 2012 at 10:10 PM

        Great point!

      • lostpuppysyndrome - Jun 27, 2012 at 11:16 PM

        Gotta keep in mind the NHL also had 6 fewer teams and no salary cap, so the talent pool wasn’t as thin and teams like the Rangers, Habs, Kings, Wings and Avs spent a lot to win their Cups. Legitimate top lines with 3 dangerous forwards rushing up the ice existed, instead of maaaaybe 2 superstars and a dangler up front on most teams that many teams currently employ. However, you’re right about the enforcer rules. The game has just gotten so much bigger and faster, and the players just keep getting better and better. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to compare today’s NHL to even 20 years ago.

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