National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman was in Columbus today and visited with the local media before taking in last night’s game against the Dallas Stars. BlueJackets.com was in attendance for Bettman’s media session, and below is a transcript of his comments about Columbus and the Blue Jackets.
**NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in Columbus - Feb. 9, 2012
Bettman, on potential enhancements to Nationwide Arena leading up to next year’s NHL All-Star celebration in Columbus: “There are a variety of things that we encourage the buildings and the clubs to do that make sure the event is state-of-the-art. In case anybody hasn’t noticed, we’ve been very committed to big events, and we make our big events even bigger. Since I was in the neighborhood today we made a series of announcements that have taken the Winter Classic to a new level. So whether it’s the way we dress up the scoreboard or the district or the building and other things we need, those are nuts-and-bolts details we work on in full cooperation with the club and the arena.
On what drives the league’s belief and support of the Blue Jackets: “On a macro basis, we view the role of our franchises as very important to a community. We know that a community makes an investment in a team both financially and emotionally. We believe that when you get that kind of support - and this franchise has gotten tremendous support in Columbus - that we need to do everything to make sure it works well. As I indicated, when you look at the development around the arena, it’s been spectacular and it’s transformed downtown Columbus. When you look at the commitment of ownership – while what’s happened on the ice is not what they wanted and has frustrated fans – the commitment has never wavered. We see it in the reaction of the fans. We know this is a good hockey market, and the fact that fans are frustrated tells you how badly they want a winner and how committed they are to the franchise.
On realignment and its effect on collective bargaining discussions: “I’m not going comment on collective bargaining. I have no interest in getting into a public debate on collective bargaining. But what I will say about realignment is the Board of Governors overwhelmingly approved a plan that not only did we believe made sense, it was really good for a number of clubs that had issues with the current alignment. The Player’s Association had the right under our Collective Bargaining Agreement to either consent or not, and if the union wasn’t going to consent, the consent needed not to be unreasonably withheld. We can have a long debate on all the issues, but I didn’t think at this point in time, having a confrontation with the union made any sense. I believe ultimately the Board is going to want to see the plan that it approved ultimately be put in place.”
On the possibility of holding a Winter Classic in Columbus: “We just did the All-Star Game, you want more right now (joking)? We haven’t looked that far ahead. Obviously, there’s interest in hosting a Winter Classic or an outdoor game. Every club has asked for one. The Blue Jackets have been adamant, persistent, aggressive on the issue of an All-Star Game for a number of years now. This isn’t a newly-found idea that they had. (Club president Mike Priest) and (Majority Owner John P. McConnell) have been at me about this for years, and we thought this was a good time. So we’ll see what happens – I wouldn’t rule it out.”
On the clock-stoppage investigation in Los Angeles at STAPLES Center: “It’s an ongoing investigation. I know the people involved have been interviewed. DakTronics, who needs to do a technical review for us, can’t do it right now because the Grammys are in STAPLES Center and we don’t have access to the clock. We’re going to try and figure out exactly what happened. But now, seeing something like this for the first time, we’re going to institute some procedures to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s a way for us to monitor the clock out of the situation room in Toronto during the last minute of each period. We’re going to be in a position to track how the clock is running, particularly in the last minute of each period, making sure if there’s a glitch or stoppage when play’s going on we can know about it at the time. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time, money and effort to put ourselves in a situation over the last few years where we can monitor very closely what’s going on in buildings. It’s why the video review procedures out of Toronto can actually include a discussion with the officials on the ice. We have that technology. We’re in the process of installing new high-definition cameras in the nets, which will have a direct feed to Toronto. These are all things that give us better ability to monitor. We haven’t given up figuring out what happened, whether it was human or mechanical.”