NASHVILLE — Whenever Gary Bettman holds a press conference, and this has been the case for more than 20 years, it’s often a battle between what he wants to talk about and the things he’d rather not discuss at all.
Today, he led his presentation with the stuff he wanted to talk about, specifically news about the league’s new website, app and game streaming service, all set to debut Sunday. That the NHL is designing a future where it may not need to have any broadcast partners or media relationships was hard to miss.
Bettman also told of a $200,000 donation to Denna Laing, the young woman seriously injured during a women’s game at the Winter Classic, and delivered the news that most already knew about: Los Angeles – not one of the Original Six teams – would be getting the all-star game next year on the league’s 100th anniversary.
Bettman grudgingly discussed possible expansion plans, but only to say he had pretty much nothing to say as the strangest expansion process during his term as NHL commissioner continues to plod along.
“We get to do this in as orderly and deliberate a fashion as the board of governors want,” he said.
The fact he stressed again that the final decision could be not to expand at all, leaving both Las Vegas and Quebec City outside the lodge, continues to leave many puzzled.
And then, of course, there was John Scott.
Bettman was very aware the league has been taking a hammering about the Scott issue, particularly after the veteran enforcer, currently employed by Montreal’s farm club in St. John’s, threw all the league’s officials under the bus during the week by writing a piece for The Players Tribune claiming an unnamed league executive tried to talk him out of participating in the all-star game by asking how it would look to his children.
By not naming the person, Scott put all the league’s officials under suspicion, while allowing himself to be painted as the poor little guy fighting against the establishment.
Seriously, he’s got a future in politics, this player. He’s managed this entire week rather cleverly, turning himself from a frequently suspended NHL fighter into a sympathetic figure despite the fact he was voted in to the game by those trying to vandalize the voting procedure.
Go figure. But people have been eating this stuff up all week.
The commish tried to downplay this thoroughly strange episode in all-star history by saying the NHL just wanted to be assured Scott would be “comfortable” participating in the all-star gathering after the “campaign” to vote him in was successful. But he refused to address questions about Scott’s claims.
“I’m not going to get into who said what,” said Bettman, who said the league hasn’t yet decided whether the all-star voting process will be changed.
He said Saturday’s board meeting was “brief and uneventful,” and that the league’s executive committee has yet to complete its evaluation of the expansion applicants.
“We’re not ready to make a recommendation,” said Bettman, essentially repeating the message on expansion he delivered last month at the board meeting in Pebble Beach.
He said the limping Canadian dollar hasn’t caused Quebecor to alter it’s bid for a team in Quebec City, and denied one more time that the league is waiting for a Seattle bid.
After a 20-minute question and answer segment, that was it for Bettman’s all-star state-of-the-union address.
There have been far more contentious ones over the years, and Bettman has mastered the ability to deliver one simple message.
When we’ve got something to tell you, we’ll tell you.