NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to the media Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, ahead of the Celebrity Shootout and Skills Competition.
He touched on topics ranging from Olympic participation, to the status of the Carolina Hurricanes, ads on jerseys, ice conditions and what the next frontier is in goal reviews.
Here are the highlights from Bettman’s press conference. Watch it in full at the top of this page.
THE FUTURE OF THE CAROLINA HURRICANES
Earlier in the day there were reports that Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos was open to selling the whole franchise and not just part of it. Naturally, this lead to speculation on what a full sale would mean to the future of the franchise in Raleigh and if relocation was a possibility.
• “I actually don’t think it’s anything different than what Peter’s been telling me over time, he didn’t say he’s committed to selling it, he just says he’s more open minded,” Bettman said. “I think at this stage of Peter’s life, he’s got lots of things going on and lots of kids and little kids, I think he’s focused on what’s best in the long term for the franchise in Raleigh-Durham and what’s best for his family.
“Theres no formal sales process ongoing.”
Later in the press conference, Bettman was asked specifically about Quebec City and if he had a message for hockey fans in that city, considering the reports around Karmanos.
• “On Carolina there is no message,” Bettman said. “Peter may sell, he may not sell. He may sell all of it, he may sell some of it. He may sell none of it. There’s no formal sale process going on. There’s no imperative for the franchise to be sold on an immediate basis and the franchise is not moving. I hope that was definitive enough.”
ADS ON NHL JERSEYS?
After NBA commissioner Adam Silver had been preparing basketball fans for the reality of ads on jerseys in that league, it began to come to fruition this week when the Boston Celtics unveiled next year’s jerseys, which had a GE logo on them.
The same topic came up at Bettman’s press conference Saturday and whether or not the NHL was thinking of moving in a similar direction.
• “It’s not an active discussion among NHL clubs,” he said. “The fact of the matter is we take great pride in our sweaters, we think they’re the best in all of sports and that’s not something we’re running off to do. I always said we wouldn’t be first, OK great the NBA’s doing it.”
• “It would take an unusual circumstance which I would define as a lot of money that I’m having trouble comprehending right now for us to even be thinking about it. We think what we have is special, we talk about history and tradition and how special hockey jerseys are. We’re not looking to put advertising on our sweaters.
• “You’ll say ‘Well you did it in the World Cup.’ The fact is the World Cup jerseys aren’t like NHL team jerseys.”
THE FUTURE OF VIDEO REVIEW
With a few questionable goal reviews coming into the spotlight this year, either due to offsides or trying to determine whether the puck crossed the goal line or not, Bettman was asked about the future of camera angles and reviews. He touched on some technology they are testing that won’t require cameras to actually see the puck cross the goal line, although it wasn’t yet ready to be put into use.
• “We are continuing to test technology that we hope is scalable that will enable us to do more,” Bettman said. “It is even possible, and I’m not saying tomorrow, but we’re looking at things that will enable us to know exactly where the puck is and whether or not it crossed the line so you won’t even have to see it, you’ll be able to know it was there because the technology will tell you. That would be aspirational, it’s something that we’re working on but it isn’t ready for prime time. Because anything we install better work and it better work right.”
THE OLYMPIC QUESTION
With the NHL Board of Governors gathering for a meeting in Los Angeles participation in the 2018 Olympics was bound to come up, although we knew it wasn’t going to be a focal point of discussion since Bettman said on Friday’s Hockey Central at Noon that it “wasn’t even on the agenda.”
As expected, the BOG didn’t spend long on the topic, but according to Bettman it did come up briefly.
• “The issue of the Olympics got about 10 seconds of discussion,” Bettman said. “I reported there was nothing new since the board meeting in December and I asked if anybody had anything to say or had any questions and there was none so we moved along.”
At one point, there was an expected “drop dead” date of late January and that if the NHL hadn’t committed to going to the Olympics by that date, then the prospect would be over with. However, when asked about how long the Olympic question can go on for, Bettman didn’t have a solid answer.
• “I don’t know the answer to that. When it happens and I suppose the time passes we’ll know about it if nothing’s been done. We’re not the ones who are setting deadlines.”
Amid reports that Rene Fasel and the IIHF had found the money the NHL needed to cover the costs of their Olympic participation, Bettman reiterated that there were still other concerns to contend with.
• “Biggest hurdle is I think there’s concern among the teams about the ongoing disruption to the season about a compressed schedule and a whole host of other things,” he said. “We’ve never said, and I’ve always been clear about that, just raising the money was the only issue. We said from the outset that if they’re not going to pay the expenses, we don’t even have to think about this.”
• “What I think has happened though, there were probably some owners over time who always thought the Olympics were a good idea, there were some owners who always hated it, and there were probably a bunch of clubs who didn’t give it much thought until the IOC said they were not going to pay the expenses. And then I think it caused a number of clubs to say ‘wait a minute if that’s how they value our participation why are we knocking ourselves out?’ So whether or not it gets paid, and we haven’t been assured that it’s being paid, we haven’t been told where the money’s coming from and frankly I have on some level, perhaps it’s emotional, a real problem if money that would otherwise go to hockey development is going to this purpose.”
ARE ICE CONDITIONS GOOD ENOUGH?
The condition of the ice in certain NHL buildings has been a topic this season, with Barclay’s Center in New York specifically cited as not meeting proper standards because of the piping system under the ice. A December game in Carolina between the Hurricanes and Red Wings was also postponed because of a leak in the piping.
Dan Craig spoke to the Board of Governors about the ice condition issue Saturday and Bettman was asked about it.
• “It’s not troubling to me. The fact is we pride ourselves on being vigilant and thorough and Dan’s presence before the board was consciousness raising. Maybe the same routines you gotta go take a second look. We want to make sure ice conditions are good for a competitive game and most importantly we want to make sure they’re safe for the players.”
• “Over time when a player has perhaps a subpar game you hear ‘oh the ice was terrible.’ Well it’s the same for both teams. We’re more concerned with fundamental breakdowns. A hole in the ice where the ice went soft, where the system breaks down. When glass breaks there should be procedures, as there are in all buildings, to get the glass in as quickly as possible. Every now and then systems tend to break down and what the point of today’s discussion was, let’s go look at the systems again, let’s make sure the ice crews are on top of what needs to be done, let’s have our A game, let’s not get complacent. We generally don’t have ice problems and maybe it was full moon, maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it was bad luck, but we had a few building issues in a very short period of time.”
The specific issue of the ice in Brooklyn, which has persisted since the team moved to Barclay’s Center last season, came up as well and Bettman once again shot down relocation rumours.
• “The owners are committed to the franchise, they’re committed to New York and the great fan base that has followed the Islanders. There are some issues about playing in Barclay, it may be fundamental as to the ice system and that’s not something that can be fixed in the short term. I think as is prudent Scott Malkin and John Ledecky are reviewing the situation and looking seriously at what their options are.”
IS MONTREAL GETTING AN OUTDOOR GAME NEXT SEASON?
The Maple Leafs hosted the Centennial Classic on Jan. 1 on the exhibition grounds, so as the league continues to celebrate its centennial into the beginning of the 2017-18 season, there has been speculation that Montreal will host an outdoor game in November.
• “I’m not prepared to commit or give you odds. We’re looking at all options to make sure that as the centennial celebration continues into next season and we get to the latter part of 2017 we’re touching the right bases.”
WILL THERE BE AN ALL-STAR GAME NEXT YEAR? HOW ABOUT LAS VEGAS?
The NHL has yet to schedule an All-Star Game next season, as it depends on whether or not they will participate in the Olympics. If they don’t go to South Korea, there will be a game, but the league hasn’t made up its mind yet on where it would be held.
Bettman was asked about a Las Vegas All-Star Game game, though, and if part of the deal with Bill Foley was guaranteeing one in the short-term.
• “We think it would be a good idea to have an All-Star Game at some point in Las Vegas. I’m certain we didn’t commit on a date, but I think our intention is some point in the earlier days of the franchise as opposed to 20 or 30 years down the road. I think we could have fun in Las Vegas with an All-Star Game.”