Bettman addresses World Cup, expansion talk, icing

Monday, 11.11.2013 / 2:41 PM
Dan Rosen  - Senior Writer

TORONTO -- With the NHL and NHL Players' Association in the midst of ongoing discussions about future international events, Commissioner Gary Bettman said on Monday he's in favor of bringing back the World Cup of Hockey and prefers that tournament over the Olympics.

Speaking at the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference and Trade Show, Commissioner Bettman said he hopes the NHL and NHLPA will soon have an announcement for a new international schedule that would focus on the resumption of the World Cup, which has not been held since 2004, and the question of future participation in the Olympics.

"I'm very much a believer in the World Cup. I think they're great," Commissioner Bettman said during his Q&A with TSN's Gord Miller. "Doing it at a time of year in places that we can control makes a whole lot more sense for us in terms of what we try to accomplish as the NHL. And we think it's good for international hockey as well."

Commissioner Bettman said despite hardships such as the 17-day suspension of the NHL season and the nine-hour time difference between Sochi and the Eastern Time Zone in North America, leading to less exposure for the game and the players, he knew the NHL had to participate in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"With each reason that I could give for it as to why it wasn't a terrific idea, I ended with, 'But we have to go,'" he said. "Why do we have to go? It's something that our players think is important, they love representing their countries. It's something our fans love. We have a history and tradition of international competition in hockey and fans, particularly in Canada, the U.S. and Russia, really love the international competition. It's a question of goodwill, particularly coming off of last year.

"In the final analysis, when it's imperfect at best … it was the right thing to do."

The future international schedule could also include the return of the Premiere Games in Europe, but Commissioner Bettman said the NHL and NHLPA have agreed it's too late to try to organize them for the start of next season.

Expansion and relocation

Commissioner Bettman said the League has no plans to conduct a formal expansion process at the present time.

"We get expressions of interest all the time and those are informal conversations that we have, but in terms of a formal bid process I'm not focused on doing anything like that right now," he said.

Relocation of franchises is also not a concern with new ownership in place with the Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils.

"Relocation was never anything we were interested in and we've been very clear about that and we never believed there would be a reason for relocation despite the speculation to the contrary," Commissioner Bettman said. "And the problem with the speculation to the contrary is it raised expectations, and we didn't think that was fair to our fans in the places that were hoping to get a franchise."

Expectations for record revenue

According to Commissioner Bettman, preliminary data suggests the League is on pace to set a record for revenue this season. The current record is $3.3 billion, which the League took in during the 2011-12 season.

"The preliminary data, and it's preliminary, looks strong, but I'm not comfortable with disclosing it at this point," Commissioner Bettman said.

He said the League is playing to approximately 95 percent capacity in all arenas and that television ratings are on the rise in most markets, both locally and nationally.

"We're having a terrific season. We really are," Commissioner Bettman said. "If you look at what is going on night in and night out, you look at the races, the performance of most teams, including some surprising ones playing at an extraordinary level, it looks like we have all the earmarks for a terrific, terrific season."

Hybrid icing

The new hybrid icing rule is expected to generate some discussion at the League's General Managers' meeting on Tuesday. Commissioner Bettman said there are some concerns about the timing of when icing is called, but the officials, players, coaches and GMs are all going through an adjustment period from the old touch-icing rule to the new rule this season.

"We'll see what the managers have to say, but icing calls under the old rule occasionally got missed," Commissioner Bettman said. "You may see some calls missed this way, but it's a new rule, it's being implemented and people are continuing to adjust. But I don't think there have been too many problems."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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