Speaking at a luncheon for The Canadian Club of Toronto, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the state of the league in a Q&A session with new Hockey Night in Canada host George Stroumboulopoulos on Monday.
Here are five things that stood out from Bettman’s Q&A.
1. Expansion is not in the cards: Bettman made it abundantly clear — the NHL isn’t looking to expand at this time. He said this is the most stable the league has ever been and essentially scoffed at an earlier report that the league was considering adding four new expansion franchises. According to Bettman, that report ruined one day of his summer vacation. The league could consider an expansion franchise down the road but isn’t ready to do it now, and Bettman doesn’t want to raise expectations. So, NHL writers, don’t expect to cover a team in Las Vegas team any time soon.
2. Two teams in one market doesn’t appeal to Bettman: After Bettman shot down the expansion talk, he also poured cold water on the possibility of two franchises ending up in a big market such as Toronto. While this formula has worked in other sports – two New York football teams, for example – and may make sense financially, Bettman isn’t sold on the concept. He’s worried that a secondary franchise in a big market would get overshadowed by the historic team and wouldn’t get the necessary coverage. His hypothetical example was a bit extreme, though.
3. NHL teams won’t be relocating to Europe: Bettman confirmed he is working with the Players’ Association on creating a World Cup of Hockey and hopes an announcement will be made within the “not too distant future.” In terms of the bigger picture, Bettman said he doesn’t foresee an NHL team relocating to Europe. The commissioner said the travel would make it too complicated and he wouldn’t want to interfere with established leagues in prominent European countries. “I’m not sure they’re sitting there waiting for us to take over,” he said.
4. Bettman wasn’t thrilled about the early 2000s: Bettman continually used the word healthy to describe the state of the league. When you listen closely, it was obvious that Bettman was displeased with how the game was played during the late 1990s and early 2000s. He mentioned that a discrepancy in team payrolls led to a style of hockey that “neutralized skill” and involved too much clutching and grabbing. Safe to say he didn’t love “The Trap.” Bettman referred it as the “dead puck era.” He said that even though some of the league’s most important changes required work stoppages, they have been very impactful. According to Bettman, the salary cap has helped create a competitive balance, and the lack of clutching and grabbing has led to a more entertaining game.
5. Bettman has been proactive about off-ice issues: With Roger Goodell and NFL under scrutiny for their handling of Ray Rice’s recent domestic violence case, Bettman said the NHL has been proactive in educating its players. He said the players don’t have any illusions of what is expected of them and they are held accountable for their actions. Bettman claims the NHL has had counseling for over a decade on issues such as substance abuse and said that rookie education program has played a significant role in teaching the players about domestic violence.