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Bettman discusses economy, Sabres

by Shawn P. Roarke /

"The sense is that we are doing OK this season, but there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future, particularly next season."
-- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

The National Hockey League's Board of Governors Meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., finished Tuesday afternoon with talk of the struggling world economy again dominating the proceedings.

The two-day meeting dealt almost exclusively with economic matters as the League makes sure it's prepared to face the harsh realities caused by the recent economic downturn.

In an exclusive interview with, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman discussed what happened with the Board of Governors in the past 48 hours.
"We had about six-and-a-half hours of meetings and we've had a very candid and far-reaching discussion about the economy, both in general and as it applies to NHL hockey," Bettman said. "The sense is that we are doing OK this season, but there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future, particularly next season."

"Probably a good indication for us will be how playoff ticket sales go. But while there is concern, there is also hopeful optimism."

On Monday, the NHL had a pair of economic experts  -- Aron Gampel, VP and Deputy Chief Economist at Scotiabank and Anton Pil, a managing director at JP Morgan Chase Private Banking -- make in-depth presentations to help the Governors understand many of the issues that will affect their businesses in the coming weeks and months.

"We had a banker and an economist, one with a Canadian institution and one with an American institution, in to try to give perspective on a variety of issues that would be affecting the clubs, but it was really more on a macro basis -- what they thought the trends were likely to be, how long and how deep, what the dollar was likely to be like.

"And while they gave their opinion on a variety of subjects, they were also very cautious to point out that nobody really knows."

While the economic future remains cloudy, Bettman believes the NHL is ready to weather the coming storm.

"The NHL will be fine," he said. "We may have to focus on the way we are operating into the future, in terms of the value proposition for fans and cost controls and the like, but none of our clubs are in jeopardy. The games will be played and we are doing OK this season. Revenues will be up and there will be real growth. But, like everyone else, we need to be observant, flexible and proactive to deal with the uncertainties the future will bring."

Bettman also dismissed recently published reports that the Buffalo Sabres franchise was up for sale.

"There is no Buffalo situation," he said. "That is one of those unfounded reports. Tom Golisano is not selling the Sabres."

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