Jun 4, 2014, 7:33 PM EST
LOS ANGELES — Not even two years after the resolution of a lockout that many predicted would cripple the NHL, commissioner Gary Bettman sat at the podium before the start of the Stanley Cup Final and said the league has enjoyed the most successful season in its history.
To his credit, he didn’t say, “I told you so.”
Instead, he called 2013-14 a “truly remarkable” season for the NHL, while referencing:
— The record attendance and TV viewership numbers.
— The successful series of outdoor games, all sold out.
— The “overwhelmingly positive” reception to the new playoff format.
— The “unparalleled competitive balance” of a league that hasn’t had a repeat champion since 1998, and won’t again this year.
— The dramatic rise in franchise values, largely a function of skyrocketing rights fees for live sports, on which the NHL capitalized this season.
— The “great business opportunity” that a reborn World Cup presents, even if the idea isn’t “fully baked” and still needs to be hashed out with the NHLPA. (On the subject of the Olympics and whether the NHL would continue to participate in the Games, he said no decision had been made, and to this point, not much thought had been put into it.)
— The continuing interest from investors in pursuit of expansion teams, even if the NHL isn’t quite ready to add teams yet.
Heck, Bettman even took one of the biggest challenges facing the NHL — head injuries — and spun it into a positive, noting that concussions were down this season, a development he believed was a “function of the concussion protocols working.”
While he admitted there was still work to be done in that area — in fact, he said teams had been disciplined behind the scenes for violating the protocols — he shifted much of the responsibility for the players’ safety onto the players themselves, saying that players must continue to learn that it’s “okay to say you’re suffering from concussion symptoms.” Otherwise, it’s “pretty difficult” to tell if they’re faking in order to stay in the game.
To be sure, Bettman will continue to face criticism over concussions and how seriously the NHL treats the health of its players. The positive spin he put on the subject today will be seen by many as just that — spin.
But compared to years past, that criticism will seem like nothing. Remember, the NHL’s “truly remarkable” season still has at least four games left, and with a Stanley Cup Final match-up between teams from the “two biggest cities,” the good news seems bound to keep coming for the commish.
Feb 1, 2015, 9:30 PM EST
They’ll visit the President on Monday.
Feb 1, 2015, 8:35 PM EST
Was a healthy scratch Friday night.
Feb 1, 2015, 7:16 PM EST
Minnesota sweeps western Canadian road trip.
Feb 1, 2015, 6:14 PM EST
Rookie Filip Forsberg had two assists in the win.
Feb 1, 2015, 5:13 PM EST
“The last 13 seconds were the longest I’ve ever lived.”
Feb 1, 2015, 4:03 PM EST
Both forwards had two goals apiece.
Feb 1, 2015, 3:22 PM EST
It was a close call.
Feb 1, 2015, 2:27 PM EST
St. Louis killed the five-minute major.
Feb 1, 2015, 2:12 PM EST
Could be a very tough loss for the Blues.
Feb 1, 2015, 1:45 PM EST
He already has two on Sunday.
Feb 1, 2015, 12:47 PM EST
Watch some hockey before a certain big game.
Feb 1, 2015, 12:39 PM EST
Andrei Vasilevskiy gets recalled in his place.
Feb 1, 2015, 12:18 PM EST
Pittsburgh continues to navigate injury challenges.
Feb 1, 2015, 11:50 AM EST
Time to hit the brakes on that rumor?
Feb 1, 2015, 10:37 AM EST
St. Louis is 9-0-1 in its last 10 games.
Feb 1, 2015, 9:37 AM EST
A big hip check and three assists from the defenseman.
Feb 1, 2015, 1:41 AM EST
Got a little help, too. Quick whistle on Toews chances.
Feb 1, 2015, 12:55 AM EST
Stopped 31 of 32 shots for the win.
Feb 1, 2015, 12:07 AM EST
No call. Got a little testy out there after that hit.
Jan 31, 2015, 11:17 PM EST
Boston maintaining their hold on a Wild Card spot.
- Steen, Blues hold on against Ovechkin, Capitals 5
- David Backes ejected after boarding, bloodying Karl Alzner 15
- End nearing? Lightning waive Nabokov 4
- Leafs scoring slump hits historical low 24
- Video: Rangers’ Lundqvist takes puck to the neck 10
- Zamboni driver arrested for DUI, allegedly cleaned ice surface while drunk 18
- Mike Richards trying to make the best of being sent to the AHL 17
- Price leads Habs past Caps with second straight shutout 12
- Report: Rob Blake would be Brendan Shanahan’s first choice to replace Dave Nonis 5
- Bettman would be ‘kicking and screaming’ before NHL jerseys have ads 29