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Commissioner Bettman Visits Anaheim, Discusses NHL Issues

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
"I could see having an All-Star Game out here," Bettman said of Anaheim. "This is obviously a desirable part of the country for people to travel to. There are lots of hotels and facilities within shouting distance of this arena. My guess is at the right time, if the club wants it and it makes sense in terms of our schedule of events, that is something that we would be prepared to consider seriously."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in Southern California on business this week and attended Wednesday night’s Ducks win over Phoenix at Honda Center. Prior to the game, Bettman spoke with reporters about some hot-button NHL issues.

On an All-Star Game in Anaheim in the future
I could see having an All-Star Game out here. This is obviously a desirable part of the country for people to travel to. There are lots of hotels and facilities within shouting distance of this arena. My guess is at the right time, if the club wants it and it makes sense in terms of our schedule of events, that is something that we would be prepared to consider seriously.

We had one in ’02 in LA. Southern California is obviously ripe. We’ve had a draft out there. There is no question that this club and this area can host a major event. Maybe not an outdoor game, but one of the other events. That is nothing against the area. It’s just the weather I don’t think would be conducive.

On the Coyotes franchise staying in Phoenix

We’re still working on it. Our hope is that we can bring it to a conclusion in that not too distant future. Nothing is imminent. It’s still a work in progress. There is no significant development that I’m in a position to report on. You do what you have to do. We think we’re doing the right thing. We’ve had tremendous support from the city of Glendale. It’s a complicated process and it’s one we are going to continue to pursue. The goal is to bring it to a conclusion in Phoenix. If in fact we don’t have an alternative, we’ll deal with it. But we are not at that point. We’ve had great support from the city of Glendale, who has a large investment in the arena and indirectly in the team. As a result, we are trying to do our share to make it work with them. At some point, if we can’t get it resolved for next season, we’ll have to consider our alternatives. But that is not new news.

On NHL realignment, which was recently rejected by the NHL Players’ Association

The most significant thing I can say about that is, the governors overwhelmingly were in support of the plan. It was something we thought as a league was the right thing to do for our fans, for the teams, for the game. But we made the decision, based on the position the union was taking, to try not to be confrontational right now. Ultimately, our goal will be to implement the will of the board.

I don’t want to characterize what their biggest concerns may or may not have been. You’d have to discuss it with them. We think it was a perfectly sensible and reasonable plan. But the union obviously didn’t agree. We just didn’t think this was a sensible time to be confrontational, so we said we won’t implement it now.

On collective bargaining
Don Fehr has repeatedly said he wouldn’t be ready until after All-Star.  My guess is at some point in the next few weeks we’ll probably sit down, assuming the union is comfortable doing that. There is a pretty steep learning curve in terms of the business, from the union standpoint, what the players are focused on. We have been respectful of that process. Whenever they are ready, we are ready. We have been ready.

On the next Winter Classic
We are working on the possibilities. If we were close to making an announcement, we’d make it. We are not in a position to make any announcements right now. If and when we ourselves into that position, we’ll hold a press conference. I think we are probably on a better timetable than we’ve been in prior years. I don’t think the announcement will hold until the summer. The things that we’re working on are closer than we’ve been at this point. But you have to remember, last year we were a little bit delayed because we had three major events in six weeks. We had the two outdoor games and the All-Star Game. We really weren’t in a position to focus on it. With All-Star coming up in a couple of weeks, I think we’ll be able to move the timetable up.

Every club is interested in being involved in some way, either hosting or participating. The event has taken on phenomenal proportions for a regular season game. It’s great to see. It’s a lot of fun. If you’ve never been to one, I’d recommend it to you because the experience is wild. You just see people absolutely thrilled to be there. There is a buzz and an excitement. It’s a lot of fun to watch the players react to that environment.

On the NBA possibly being in Anaheim
It’s not an NHL preference issue. It’s really up to the owner of this building, as to whether or not it makes sense. I don’t react to rumors. I’m not sure how my substance there is to that story. The final analysis would be for the team and landlord to see if they can reach an accommodation.

On what he took away from the lockout
I’m not sure it’s about learning lessons. The lesson that everybody knows and it’s not one you have to learn is that you do not want to have work stoppages. They are not fun and are counter-productive. But if, if you are in a situation as we were where there were fundamental problems that had to be addressed, you have to address the problems because you can’t live with a dysfunctional system. It’s not that we learned anything. It was we did what we had to do at the time. If you look back over the last six and a half seasons, the league is in a stronger position than it was when we started collective bargaining on that agreement.

On collective bargaining
I am not going to discuss collective bargaining. Anything that we have to say about collective bargaining, the system, the agreement, we’ll do it with the Players Association quietly. The fact is we’re having another terrific season. This will be another record-breaking season for us, both in terms of revenues and attendance. I don’t see any reason for anybody to be distracted by collective bargaining, certainly not now.

On player safety
I think I’ve been on record for most of the 18 years as I thinking visors were a good idea. Both that is something that the Players Association, at least to date, hasn’t agreed to. We have been very proactive on player safety. I know there are more concussions being reported. That is in part a function of the fact that we are doing a much better job of reporting, diagnosing and treating. When you think about it, the education process that the league is going through and the players has changed the culture, so that players are more willing to admit that they’ve had a concussion and get treated. That is all very important. We’ve been at this since ’97. We were the first sports league to do base line testing, the first sports league to have protocols for diagnosis and return to play. We have the quiet room protocol, which nobody has done. We’ve changed rules on more than one occasion. We have a Department of Player Safety. We take this stuff very seriously and we’re going to continue looking at equipment. That is one of the mandates that Brendan Shanahan has. This is something we do in conjunction with the Players Association.

I think Brendan is doing a terrific job. He’s working extremely hard. I think this job is everything he expected and more. I also think the players are hearing him. Particularly with the videos, there is greater clarity as to what is expected on the ice and what won’t be tolerated. He has an extremely difficult job. Part of what has happened is people have on second look given Colin Campbell a little more respect for the job he did for 13 years in this field. This is a hard, hard job that he has. The decisions are hard and nobody is ever happy.

Bettman also spoke with Ducks TV analyst Brian Hayward during the intermission:

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