NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media prior to Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings. Here is a transcript of the press conference.
Q. If these series do end today, tomorrow, Saturday, is there a provision to move the Stanley Cup Final up or do we have to wait till the 26th?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: No. I always hate to speculate about what might happen. So even my mere answering your perfectly appropriate question would suggest that we even think in those terms.
But depending on when these series end, we have a variety of contingency plans that deal with whether or not the series go the distance or whether or not they don't.
Q. Very well said.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Thank you (smiling).
It's the type of question that seems innocuous that can get you into a lot of trouble. None of our series are ever static in terms of the dates. We always have a range of flexibility to respond to whatever may or may not happen.
Q. With Brett Hull moving into management, do you get a chance to chat with him much? He's been an outspoken critic of the League. What are the conversations like between you?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Actually, the last time Brett and I chatted was at the sushi restaurant in the lobby of the Valencia Hotel in San Jose where I had gotten into town. We bumped into each other in the lobby. I went for a little fresh air, then I kept him company while he was finishing his sushi.
We have a very cordial relationship. To the extent there are issues we each need to focus on, we talk about them. I appointed him, and he graciously agreed to serve, on the goalie equipment committee. I think he will continue to make positive contributions to the game and to the League.
Obviously with his long career and his vast experience and his knowledge of the game, he has much to add - as he's demonstrated here with the club during the season.
My guess is, and your question suggests, that people think that historically we had a contentious relationship, which we didn't. I have enormous respect and regard for him. It's great to have him active in the NHL family.
Q. Is it important to have scorers on the goalie equipment committee?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That was actually our thinking. Both the Players' Association members are a mix of goaltenders and shooters, and we did the same thing. All of our members are GMs who were former players, both as skaters and as goaltenders. So we're going to try and get a balance of view as to the best way to proceed.
Q. Is it good for the League to have a team, when one team is standing out the way Detroit has so far, without being presumptive about what might happen tonight or the rest of the series, best regular season, been dominant this post-season, does that help?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: You know, it's a fascinating question. Again, it's like Eric's question. I have to be careful how I answer it at this stage of the proceeding. We do play the games for a reason, so I always hesitate to anoint any result.
What's fascinating to me about the question, for a little while I heard all these stories about how, under the type of system we have, you can't get dominant teams. And while again we're not ready to anoint any teams as dominant, your question suggests that we may be heading in that direction.
And I think in the final analysis, teams that are well-run, well-put together, the chemistry's good, the right mix of players, can do very well, and can become dominant, even under a system where you don't have an unlimited hand in terms of what you can spend.
I don't know if that adequately answered your question.
Q. In the NBA, in the years of Michael Jordan, there's always that super team that everybody's gunning for. I don't know if it helps ratings, helps interest.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: You know what my view on all of this is? You know, it is what it is. You know, I was in Philadelphia last night. A number of fans, some from afar, were suggesting that we have a rooting interest. I think all of you who know me know we don't. We just want to see entertaining, exciting games, and we want the officials to do a good job.
And the stories that will unfold will unfold depending what happens on the ice. You know, it's not about big markets or small markets. It's not about dominant teams or not. It's about the actual competition and how good the games are, how good the series turn out. That's what I think is the most important for fans.
Q. Since you say you do have some flexibility in scheduling future series, can you or do you ever take into account what's going on in the NBA as far as matching it up on different nights, a situation like Detroit where you could have teams on the same nights?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The good news in Detroit is we're in different buildings. We do, as does the NBA and baseball and football, have television commitments.
Certainly I wouldn't envision that we would be going head-to-head during our respective finals. But it is possible that with their Conference Finals and their needs and their commitments and their building availability, it's conceivable we'd go head-to-head.
I haven't projected out because, as we discussed before, I haven't anointed a winner. And we have to schedule the way we schedule. We're also a round ahead of the NBA. When it comes to the final, we lay out a format. It may be we move the format up, but we have a format that we will probably stick to.
Q. What is the likelihood we'll see another outdoor game next season? Is Yankee Stadium a possibility as a venue?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Funny you should ask. We are in the midst of doing our homework and trying to make some plans to do another outdoor game. We think the game in Buffalo, the Winter Classic on January 1st last, was a great event for our game and for our fans. It made us the center of sports focus on a day which had traditionally been devoted to college football. So we very much want to do it again. We want to keep it special. We don't want to overdo it.
We have no shortage of interested cities and teams. And we're exploring them. One of the possibilities is Yankee Stadium. But there are a variety of issues with respect to all of the possibilities. We have to see which can be resolved satisfactorily.
There is some construction going on, on and about the Yankee Stadium area, the old stadium area, which may impact us. There are some winterization issues, because it is an older stadium. As I sit here today, I don't know whether or not they can be resolved. We don't have a deal yet to go anywhere, but we're in discussions with a variety of places, some that have been named, I'm not breaking any news here, Chicago, Boston, Colorado, Denver, Pennsylvania.
Actually got a letter from the Governor suggesting, based on this incredible -- I think Governor Rendell said in his letter to me as great a sportsfan as he is, he's never seen the intensity of a rivalry as he's seeing now between the Flyers and the Penguins, and we should consider playing in HappyValley before a 107,000 people.
We're looking at a lot of things. I anticipate, hopefully by the time we announce the schedule in early July when we release it, historically on the day after the baseball All-Star Game, that we'll know what we're doing.
Q. Is there an update on the transfer agreement, or where do things stand with that?
But as I sit here today, other than we're planning to try to do something, we're not done yet.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Where it stands right now is we don't have a transfer agreement in place for next year. And we may not have one. Bill Daly and I were in QuébecCity last Friday. We spent some time with René Fasel, who runs the International Ice Hockey Federation. While there will be some ongoing discussions, I think it is quite possible, if not likely, that we will be operating next year without a transfer agreement, unless something changes.
And I believe that the clubs and the players will adapt. It will be a little less orderly in the short-term, but I think that the best players in the world want to come here to play, and if in fact the ease of transfer isn't going to be what it has been, then I think you will see players insisting on their own ability to buyout their contracts from the European clubs and/or will insist upon and only sign shorter-term contracts.
I think it will take a year or 18 months for that to fully adjust. But I think that's probably what will happen in the short term if there is no agreement.
We still want to try and maintain a constructive, cooperative relationship with the IIHF, and we continue to be in discussions. But some of the Federations have, for a variety of reasons, decided they'd like to perhaps move forward without one, even though it means that they don't get the development fees that we have historically paid in the past.
Q. Going forward, is there any talk about expansion, especially some potentially attractive markets out there, Las Vegas, Seattle?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: There are expressions of interest that we've been getting from a variety of places, which have been well-chronicled: Kansas City, Seattle, Winnipeg, Las Vegas. We are not currently in a position where we're either relocating a franchise or prepared to go through a formal expansion process. If we do decide to move in that direction, then we'll go through a process that incorporates and lets us analyze all of the interests that we're doing.
But as we sit here today, we're not doing either of those two things.
Q. Any possibility, there's been talk of an 84-game schedule, is that possible for next year or in the future?
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: For next year, for a variety of reasons, including commitments that our clubs have already made for the pre-season and the scheduling parameters that we've been working with, it is not possible for next year. There has been some discussion between us and the Players' Association over maybe shortening the number of pre-season games and increasing by two the number of regular-season games, which could provide a little more interconference play.
It's something that we will continue to look at, but we don't have an agreement on what the fundamentals of that would be. But it is something that's probably, although a bit dormant in the short-term, something that we may get back to and discuss. But there's nothing that will happen in that regard for next season. The biggest change in the schedule for next season is we will be going from 10 interconference games to 18 in response to the fact that we've heard from not a majority, but a substantial number of fans, and some clubs, that they would like to see the ability of every team to play every team at least once, whether or not it's home or away.
And we're moving in that direction. We'll be accomplishing that in next season's schedule.
Thank you very much, and enjoy the game.