MONTREAL - The Canadiens and the NHL kicked off an exciting weekend in hockey history, as the League gets set to mark 100 years since its founding at the Windsor Hotel in downtown Montreal.
In celebration, the NHL's 31 general managers fittingly held their biannual meetings at the Windsor on Friday morning. Following the meetings, a plaque commemorating the occasion was unveiled.
Later in the morning, the League's GM's traveled a short distance to the Bonaventure Hotel to take in two panel discussions hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal and moderated by RDS's Pierre Houde - the first featuring Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and League Commissioner Gary Bettman, and the second featuring Habs general manager Marc Bergevin and two of his counterparts, Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers and Ken Holland of the Detroit Red Wings. Here are some highlights.
On the changes in application of certain rules:
MARC BERGEVIN: "Like with the slashing on the hands, there was an adjustment period. We saw a lot [of penalties] in the preseason, but it's less and less. The players are getting used to it a bit. For the faceoff rule, for us it happened once in our favor, once against. So there's an adjustment period but overall, we're satisfied.
"I think it's both that the players have adjusted and they're less strict. There are a lot fewer penalties than at the start of the season."
Video: Marc Bergevin on the GM meetings
On League growth:
GARY BETTMAN: "When I took over in 1993, League revenues were about $430 million. This year, we will do somewhere between $4.5-$5 billion. That's a testament to everybody who is involved in this endeavor, [including] the players. The players have done well as well. The average salary when I started was about $300,000 and now it's about $3 million. Any system that is going to work to make a sport strong has to be fair to everybody. But in the final analysis, what makes the system work is that it's good for the fans, because all of our teams can afford to be competitive. It takes everybody pulling together. As passionate as Geoff is about Montreal, the Canadiens and his desire to bring the Cup back to Montreal, as a member of the Executive Committee, he's one of those owners who focuses on what's good for the League and what's good for hockey. You couldn't have a more passionate person responsible for the future of the Montreal Canadiens."
On Olympic participation:
GEOFF MOLSON: "I do believe, emotionally, it makes you very proud to watch your players represent their country. At the same time we are a League and we need to stay together in our decision of how we're going to grow internationally, and I'm committed to that."
BETTMAN: "We believe we have an important presence on the international stage. But the roots of our game are here in North America - particularly in Canada - and we have to keep them strong and that's something we're committed to. So whatever we do on a worldwide basis cannot and will not dilute what we do here. The best thing I can say about [the Olympics] is that taking three weeks off in February to go halfway around the world where you completely disappear, coming back at strange hours of the day and night and where we're not allowed to promote the fact we're there is incredibly disruptive to our season. It causes compression in the rest of the season - and there's a greater risk of injury and players being tired. And from a competitive standpoint, because our player pool is so diverse, some NHL teams historically have sent 10 players to the Olympics and some have sent one or two. When the teams come back from the Olympic break, whatever momentum they had is gone and teams come back in different conditions. Some are a little tired and banged up from traveling halfway around the world, and other teams have most of their players spend two weeks with their wife and kids on the beach. Without the ability to let people know the NHL was there - which the International Olympic Committee has not and would not let us do - it made absolutely no sense to continue."
Video: Geoff Molson and Gary Bettman at the CCMM
MOLSON: "You see it around the League, there are teams who aren't far [from each other], and we had that in this province with two teams. Like I've always said, and I'll continue to say it, if the owners and the League bring a recommendation to have another team in Quebec City, we'll support it."
On hockey and the Canadiens in the community:
BETTMAN: "I believe, and I know Geoff and the owners believe, that sports teams have a platform that can make a difference in people's lives. Whether it's underprivileged communities and giving young people that might not otherwise have structure in their lives the ability to learn hard work, teamwork, leadership and physical fitness, and make sure they're getting a good education. Whether it's initiatives like Hockey Is For Everyone about inclusiveness or Hockey Fights Cancer, which is something we've been doing at the club level for 20 years. We can use the profile that we and our athletes have to do good work in the community and make a difference in people's lives. The Canadiens are a great example of that."
Recipe for success:
BERGEVIN: "Obviously, you need great players. But hockey is a sport and you have to have a team concept. It's not as easy as people think, but today there are 31 general managers and they're all smart people and they work very hard. Our job is difficult, but it's fun. At the end of the day, we all want to win a Stanley Cup [and that's how] success is measured. That's our goal."
How do you put aside your experience as a former player?
BERGEVIN: "It's hard. At some point, you become close to your players. As a former player, we respect them and we know what they're going through. When you trade a player, you're also trading a family and it's not easy. There's always a respect aspect of it. At the end of the day, we have a job to do. Players are pretty good, they do understand, but it doesn't make it easy."
On pressure from the market:
DALE TALLON: "When you get to be my age, you forget. There's a perk! Marc and I go back to since he was 19 years old. We started working together. He's so qualified and so wonderful at his job. There's a lot of stress in this marketplace. Some nights, you have more media here [in Montreal] than we have fans! I only have to deal with one or two of those guys and some of them don't know a puck from a football. To be in this market, it takes a special guy.
"I really believe strongly in Marc. He called me when he first retired, and I had just gotten the job in Chicago. He called me 'Jean Talon' and he said, 'Jean, it's Berg. I'm looking for a job. Right now, I'm making a list of guys I would work for. Guess what? You made the list.' He was looking in San Diego. I told him to get on a plane, he flew over the next day and I hired him on the spot because he's creative and a wonderful human being. He's going to get the job done."