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Bettman is grateful and excited about early ratings

Jan 23, 2013, 7:52 PM EDT

Gary Bettman AP

By just about any standard, the ratings and turnout for the NHL’s return have been impressive. Gary Bettman expressed relief and delight regarding early post-lockout successes to the Sports Business Daily on Wednesday.

“We could be hopeful all we wanted, but we didn’t take anything for granted,” Bettman said. “We are grateful and we are excited.”

The NHL’s long-standing commissioner credited fan outreach programs and discounts (the Ottawa Senators gave out free beer, for instance) as a big reason for the bounce back.

“We really thought that it was most important initially that the fans reconnect with their teams,” Bettman said. “We took out ads in every market nationally in Canada and the U.S. But we thought it was more important initially that all of our efforts be focused on backstopping the clubs as they reached out.”

It’s probably wise that he didn’t trot out his “greatest fans in the world” line again, though.

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