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Bettman: ‘Our game is better’

Feb 20, 2014, 12:07 PM EDT

BettmanMichaels

In a wide-raging interview with NBC’s Al Michaels, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL game is “better” than Olympic hockey.

Watch the full interview on NBCOlympics.com

Michaels asked Bettman about the play on expanded international ice — the rinks in Sochi are 200-feet long by 100-feet wide, 15 feet wider than NHL ice — and the commissioner said he felt the North American game was superior.

“I think our game is better,” Bettman said. “I think our game has more offensive intensity, particularly play around the net.”

“There have been some people who have advocated that it’s a little safer. I don’t buy that either. In Vancouver — which, by the way, most people say has been the best hockey tournament there’s been in the Olympics — that was played on NHL ice, and our injury factors seemed to be a lot less than they are here [in Sochi].”

Bettman noted that “five players” had been hurt during the Sochi Games. Those would be Henrik Zetterberg, Aleksander Barkov, Tomas Kopecky, Mats Zuccarello and John Tavares — the latter being a 2013 Hart Trophy candidate for NHL MVP, now ruled out for the remainder of the season with a torn MCL.

In short, the commissioner doesn’t see any upside to the larger sheet.

“I’ve talked to a lot of our hockey people who are here,” Bettman said. “We’re not advocates of the bigger ice.”

  1. wingsdjy - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    This may be an unpopular position, but I actually like the lack of fights in the Olympic tournament. I wouldn’t mind if that mentality made it into the NHL someday.

    • joey4id - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      Amen!

      • thailer35 - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        Except there have been fights, though not the dropping of gloves and line brawls, but go watch the U.S. Russia game, and tell me all of that little extracurricular activity didn’t add to the intensity of the game.

      • patthehockeyfan - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        Thailer’s right. Several times during the U.S.-Russia game, Kovalchuk’s name came up in conversation among the announcers. The phrase they used more than a couple of times was, “dirty hit.” I think he even bloodied one of the U.S. players.

        Personally, I don’t like fighting; but, I accept that it’s part of the game.

    • furkmyster - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      If the NHL only had 12 teams, there would be less fights as the skill level of all players would be much higher. But that ain’t happening, there will be 32 before much longer.

      • wingsdjy - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        I’m a bit naive on Olympic rules with regards to fighting. Is the lack of fights because it’s prohibited, or is it merely due to the skill level of the players?

      • patthehockeyfan - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        I love your question, wings, and I’m assuming there’s a double meaning there.

        Fighting is prohibited in the Olympics.

        Also, the skill level of some players lends itself to no need for fighting.

      • dentals1 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        I would have to disagree, respectfully of course. I think if there were 12 teams you would have more fighting. Familiarity breeds contempt and more opportunity for retribution.

    • stepanup - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      Haven’t missed the fighting at all. Embrace the speed in exchange for the goons.

      • rancidpunx19 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        This tournament, intensity wise, is nothing compared to the NHL Playoffs unfortunately!

  2. sippindasyzurp - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    I know all you folks going rip Bettman apart.. But that is the TRUTH.. This tournament has not even come close to being as exciting as 2010 in Vancouver. A couple of the quarterfinal games were good.. The Russia USA game was alright, I didnt find it particular exciting with teams trading chances all game.

    The Semi’s and Gold medal should be enjoyable to watch, but for myself the round robin and qualifiers were duds.

    • ibieiniid - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      i agree with everything except that “teams trading chances all game” isn’t an exciting game. what do you want to see? one team with all the chances? or they split the period half and half?

    • wingsdjy - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:40 PM

      Some of the lack of excitement has to do with the lack of parity in the Olympics.

      • jcmeyer10 - Feb 20, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        Right? When you have Slovenia celebrated nationally that they made the quarters, there will be some bad games.

  3. pitpenguinsrulez - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    I very much agree with Crookman. The Olympics for the most part have been a defensive struggle similar to the hockey before the 2004-05 lockout. Sure I love close games but I do enjoy watching high scoring affairs. Look at how people specifically Canada wants Crosby to score a ton of points. Well last I checked this isn’t the Gretzky/Lemieux Canada Cup from 87. I personally do enjoy the NHL game a lot more.

  4. izlez - Feb 20, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Somehow I don’t think Zetterberg aggravating a chronic back issue, Mats Zuccarello fracturing his hand, etc., are injuries being caused on big ice.

    What do the concussion numbers look like over a large period of time?

    • thailer35 - Feb 20, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      I noticed that too. Injuries during the Olympics is a different stat than injuries caused by play during the Olympics, much less cause by larger ice. Quit stat-manipulating Bettman!

  5. tdrusher225 - Feb 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    I think Burke’s idea of the “hybrid” ice sheet (200 x 92) sounds pretty good. I prefer the NHL size sheets, but I would enjoy seeing the flow of play in the NHL improve a little (less offsides, more room to make plays, etc.). But I think if you’re taking one or the other, Bettman is right that there is a greater deal of “offensive intensity” that I like in the NHL.

    • thailer35 - Feb 20, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      It’ll never happen though. You have to cut out seats to expand the ice, and owners will not do that.

      • tdaveniii - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:20 PM

        But, you get more seats on the glass with larger ice. In essence, you really only lose the top couple of rows, which are cheap seats anyway.

    • jpelle82 - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      thats what they played on in salt lake city. the 60x28m was a perfect balance between the 61x30m iihf european size and the 61x26m nhl rink. i would be all for it

      • jpelle82 - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        **60x26m nhl size rink

      • r8rbhawk - Feb 20, 2014 at 6:45 PM

        I think it is safe to say you are getting thumbs down on your comment due to your use of the metric system, not because of your opinion on the size of the rink. You know we frown upon the metric system down here, the same way we despise the use of the letter ‘u’ in words like color, flavor, armor. Don’t get us started on where to place the ‘r’ in words like center and theater, and we’ll be damned if you dare use the letter ‘c’ in words like offense and defense.

  6. jcornella - Feb 20, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    North Americans will agree with Bettman, Europeans likely not. More physical and plenty of room at 85 feet for the skill guys.

  7. wjarvis - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    I may be in the minority, but I’d like if they eliminated the idea of a standard rink size and let each team choose the dimensions for their home ice for the season (within certain limits of course).

    I’m also pretty sure that regardless of ice size the NHL will be better since it has teams that play together for 3/4 of the year in a league that has pretty much all of the best players in the world.

    • tdaveniii - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      I think this is a cool idea.

      I also have to say that I’ve not missed the protracted puck battles on the boards that exist in NHL games. Not sure if it is the big ice, more skill, or what, but there has been very little of it.

  8. djshnooks - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Not even close…I can watch any Olympic matchup, not so much with the NHL.

    Olympic hockey is much more intense.

    The NHL has a LONG ways to go before they can be Olympic hockey. Everyone and their Mother is watching these Olympic games…none of them like the NHL.

    It’s just different, idk how to explain it.

  9. restohpens - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Has anyone actually watched these games??? They’re dirty. They’re dangerous. They’re infuriating for me as a fan to watch another player blatantly stick out his leg for a trip and not have to worry about the repercussions. Every scrum in front of the net means nothing because you can’t fight. That boarding that was clearly intentional? Cry about it, sissy. You can’t do anything unless you want to sit out a game (for sticking up for your teammate).

    It takes the game out of the players hands and I hate it. How many missed calls involving cheap stuff have you seen so far (for me at least 10 a game)? Better question, how many of those wouldn’t happen in the NHL because someone bigger and stronger will punch you in the face?

    If fighting goes, I go. I can’t watch hockey where Ovechkin plays a period and a half head hunting anyone, looking to injure.

    • izlez - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      Just a question, how many players have been punched in the face in this year in the NHL?

      Not sure where you’re seeing so many cheap shots, and not sure 30 second tug-matches are really any sort of deterrent

      • restohpens - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:36 PM

        I’m not sure you’re comprehending what I’m trying to say because you seem to have agreed with my point.

        I’m saying fighting is the deterrent. Fear of getting smashed by a dude who’s job it is to regulate cheap stuff on the ice is the deterrent. You don’t get that in the Olympics so players can do whatever they want and only worry about a harmless scrum.

        So, in conclusion, you’re right? I’m right? WE’RE RIGHT!! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 GO USA

    • barkar942 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      There is a balance of power created by being able to defend against any dirty stuff, such as Kovalchooks blatant slashes and head hunting when he got pissed off and they were losing.
      Too much of that stuff goes unresponded to and you would have no star players left uninjured in the NHL.I think Zuccarello’s broken hand was from another frustrated Russian’s slash, was it not?

  10. smarshall3789 - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    Who cares what Bettman says he ran this league into the ground I love hockey it’s my favorite sport but hockey won’t be what it was till he goes. I mean really on NBCSN some people don’t have that channel you ruined the publicity of this sport use to be on ESPN and was talked about on sports center for ever get out of town Bettman go run the KHL you joke

    • pastabelly - Feb 20, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      Bettman didn’t run the league into the ground. It’s as strong as ever. ESPN wasn’t willing to give the NHL a dime (wanted a deal with no rights fees). I’m not a Bettman fan, but that mainly relates to his inability to achieve labor peace.

      The most interesting thing he said was that the NHL is giving up a big window of three weeks after the NFL season is over. With baseball now a month away, it’s a valid point, but the NHL still benefits from Olympic hockey as it relates to the increased visibility of the sport and that does translate to the NHL. I do believe his rooting interest is and should be with Team USA as, ultimately, the success of the NHL is tied to the growth and popularity of the sport in the US.

      • greatmiamisportsmind - Feb 21, 2014 at 11:42 PM

        I agree with smarshall, Bettman has ruined the league. Sure, the league has been more profitable than ever before, however, they are still light years behind the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Sure, it’s been more profitable than ever, but when you account for inflation, the league is probably the same financially as it was 20 years ago.

        Sure, Bettman complains about shutting down the league for 2 weeks, but really, it’s not a full 2 weeks. It’s about 8 days, don’t forget during the non-Olympic years, regular season play ends on Wednesday before the All-Star Game and usually resumes the following Tuesday.

        Bettman complains about shutting down for 2 weeks, when he decided to shut down for the first 3.5 months last season, and shutdown for an entire season in 2004-05.

        Bettman got greedy leaving ESPN, coming off a year in which they didn’t play a single game, Bettman had zero leverage with ESPN. Honestly, I bet the majority of you forgot, that the NHL didn’t leave ESPN for NBCSN, but rather for OLN, in which nobody heard of until the NHL signed with them. OLN then, turned into Versus, which was bought out by NBCSN. Leaving ESPN, Bettman lost all daily coverage on SportsCenter.

  11. rancidpunx19 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    This tournament, itensity wise, is nothing compared to the NHL Playoffs unfortunately

  12. rancidpunx19 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    This tournament, itensity wise, is nothing compared to the NHL Playoffs unfortunately!

  13. rancidpunx19 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    This tournament, intensity wise, is nothing compared to the NHL Playoffs unfortunately!

  14. kellyb9 - Feb 20, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Anything that’s good for hockey is good for the NHL. Lets face it, some NHL fans will probably tune out the Olympics… but other non-traditional hockey fans will watch. If the NHL had half a brain cell, it would embrace this instead of making comparisons and complaining about NHL players over there. But maybe that’s just me… I’m enjoying the Olympics thus far.

  15. vstar1us - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    As a fan of hockey and a Minnesota Wild season ticket holder, I think it is great that we have NHL’rs on the Olympic teams. I am missing seeing hockey at the excel just wish we did not a hockey break and just play with the other guys that did not make the Olympic teams. For ice size, I am afraid if the ice was bigger, the games would take forever….
    As for the NHL being a mega sport, don’t see it under the current leadership, the NHL needs a Roger Goodale from the NFL. I think if the NHL had only 50 games, then every single game count and each playoff round be 3 games and the Stanley Cup only 5 games because I think fans get bored with long playoff runs. The owners are happy because they can double the ticket prices for the multiple games. Best record gets home ice first, if you lose you goto the other guys place and if you lose again you stay and play again.
    I am just a fan, and my opinion counts in my own mind.

  16. andyisfat - Feb 20, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Get rid of the cheesey shoot out. Horrible for hockey.

  17. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Feb 20, 2014 at 8:54 PM

    I don’t really care what size the ice is. Both have their perks. I just wish the NHL and IIHF could agree on one uniform size and get it over with.

    I like the Burke hybrid idea mentioned above, it works as a good compromise. One has to make their slightly bigger, the other slightly smaller.

  18. bobc74 - Feb 20, 2014 at 9:12 PM

    Sorry to disagree with you, Mr. Bettman, but the US team just put up 5 goals. The NHL average goals per game is currently 2.75. During the 1980’s and early 90’s it was almost 4 goals per game. I don’t consider today’s 2.75 goals per game average “offensively better” than what the US team is doing in Sochi.

  19. stratomaticfan - Feb 20, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    Best thing about Olympic Hockey…..no TV time outs. The game flows and flies. Non stop action.

    • patthehockeyfan - Feb 21, 2014 at 6:39 AM

      Yeah, well, sort of. Watching the U.S. – Russia game live, I could have used a TV time out or two, if for no other reason than to exhale. Tense game.

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