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Commissioner Bettman Addresses Media in Anaheim

Sunday, 01.09.2011 / 8:57 PM / News
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Commissioner Bettman Addresses Media in Anaheim
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in town for Scott Niedermayer's retirement party on Saturday night, attended Sunday night's Ducks-Sharks game at Honda Center and talked to media beforehand about the state of the game.

On building on the Winter Classic and the HBO “24/7” series
It leverages off itself as we’ve seen. The Winter Classic is and has been one of the many efforts we’ve put forth to give our fans more points of contact with the games. It’s consistent with what we’ve done with the Premier Game, the Awards Show,, NHL Network and NHL Radio. We’re continuing to do the various things that are available to us to continue to grow the game and make more points of contact. We use the Winter Classic in its fourth year to extend our reach by getting HBO Sports to work with us to do “24/7”. It all builds on each other a step at a time.

On further involvement with HBO
HBO has told me that they were extraordinarily pleased with “24/7” and they would be interested in doing it again in the future. When I say in the future, certainly for another Winter Classic. We haven’t discussed anything else. They believe the access that they got was unprecedented, particularly because it was the regular season and it was two teams.

On getting the Winter Classic to Southern California
It’s not anything that we’ve yet focused on, as has been our history. We do one Winter Classic, we take a deep breath, we let everybody recover and then we figure out what we’re going to do next. We have another outdoor game coming on February 20, so we actually have to get through that one before we focus on the next game. Calgary is hosting Montreal in the Heritage Classic and we have a network negotiation to have as well. There are a variety of things that we really need to do before we start thinking about next year.

On the Winter Classic being in primetime again
That is something that we are going to have to reflect on. The notion of primetime, we actually had 24 hours for us to decide with NBC that that is what we were going to do. We’ll sit down and talk about it.

On a California team playing in the Winter Classic on the East Coast
The possibility of teams that for weather reasons might not come to mind as your first choice to host the event get considered for the possibility of participating as a visiting team.

On the league’s outlook this season
We are having a good season on all fronts. The game on the ice is good. You look at the races in the West. If you yawn and take the night off, you can drop from fifth to 12th place in the blink of an eye. Colin (Campbell) has been doing a good job with supplemental discipline and the players by and large have handled, for example the new role on blindside hits to the head, well. Revenues are strong and attendance is up. Things are continuing to grow. In a difficult economic environment, we are holding our own and even growing a little bit.

Revenues are up 4-5 percent, maybe. That is an early projection. We seem to be in a good place, in terms of the business. The national business, particularly with sponsors and the like, has been growing big double digits, something like 83 percent over the last three years. That has been in a recessionary environment. We are actually doing okay.

On bringing the game to other television networks
I cannot respond to that right now because we are actually in an exclusive negotiating period with Comcast Versus. We are not in the marketplace right now. If the merger with NBC Universal is approved, then we will be in position to have the negotiations with both of our current partners together and take it from there. But we are not in the marketplace right now.

On being pleased with Versus
Those rumblings do not come from us. We are extraordinarily happy. Based on the research we get, which we do with our fans, people think Versus does a very good job of covering the game. Their distribution has increased pretty significantly since we’ve been on. They have been an extraordinarily good partner, as has NBC. The rumblings aren’t really coming from the hockey world.

On new NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr
Have we spent time together? Yes. We’ve been talking periodically over the last few months. I saw him in Buffalo. We spent time together during the gold medal at the World Juniors. He was in the office with one of their business people to discuss what we were attempting to begin to layout for the plan for the Premier Games for next year. That has been what we’ve done so far. He is at a point now where he is absorbing and learning what the NHL and hockey is all about. While he has obviously been in professional sports a long time, I think he’d be the first to admit that there is a fairly good size learning curve that has to be accomplished before things can move subsequently.

Donald and I are going to have to work on building a relationship surrounding hockey, without regard to anything that has happened in the past because my own belief is we need to look forward.

On the CBA
The system has worked pretty much as anticipated. There have been a few little things I’m sure on both sides that were surprises. My guess is both sides are going to have things that need to be talked about when we get to collective bargaining. I would respectfully urge that focusing on the NHL and collective bargaining is way premature. The three other majors – football, basketball, baseball – all have collective bargaining agreements that expire before ours. We are the caboose on this train. We have a great season going and another one to come. I’m not sure why any attention is being focused on collective bargaining right now. We’re after all those guys. If you’d like, focus on the other three. They are more front and center than we are right now.

On the league coming back strong from the lockout
 It’s extraordinary how strong we came back from the year off. I periodically see commentary suggesting that somehow we are still overcoming the damage. We overcame the damage the first day we were back from the work stoppage. We had record revenues in every season post-work stoppage and four out of the five years, we’ve had record attendance. Our fans have been great in understanding what we had to go through. We took huge steps forward in addressing our issues. Our fans got it. The game on the ice and the competitive balance is all a function of what came out of the year off.

On traveling to California
I try to get everywhere at least once. Probably for business and other things, I’m out in California three or four times a year. I’ll be at the Kings tomorrow and then I’m going to go to San Jose on Tuesday. It worked out well, with Scott’s dinner last night. It was fortuitous. The celebration was last night and as I looked at the schedule, all three teams were home successively.

On the NHL Network

People tell me that the highlights that you get on “On the Fly” are the best they’ve seen anywhere. To me, one of the most rewarding aspects of what happens on the NHL Network is I’m told that the players have it on in the locker rooms all the time. We are pleased about that. The NHL Network,, NHL Radio, they are always to provide everybody greater access to our game.

See the TV interview with Bettman on the Ducks Mobile App




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