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Sunday Coffee: Reiterating His Optimism

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
NHL Commisioner Garry Bettman at the NHL Draft (Getty Image
"There’s a good fan base here. I don’t think anybody doubts that. At some point in time, every team’s competitiveness or lack thereof has an impact...This is a team with a good core of young players here, a good coach." - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was among the 19,000 at BankAtlantic Center taking in the Panthers home opener Saturday evening against the Devils, and once again he reiterated his optimism about the Panthers and hockey in South Florida.
 
“There’s a good fan base here,” Bettman said. “I don’t think anybody doubts that. At some point in time, every team’s competitiveness or lack thereof has an impact. Teams can go through rebuilding periods. But this is a team with a good core of young players here, a good coach, and if they continue to develop…”
 
            When asked about the team’s ownership, Bettman said the “group is in discussions about making some adjustments among themselves.”
 
            “I think the solution here, and I think (President and COO) Michael (Yormark) would know more about this than I do, but I think the solution is going to come out of, perhaps, an (adjusting) of the existing ownership group. Not necessarily somebody getting in or out, but a restructuring of the day to day.
 
            “I think they’re probably closer now to a resolution of the ownership issue than they’ve been.”
 
            Bettman said he didn’t think the cap would fluctuate much next season despite rumors it would go down 10-to-20 percent. “It isn’t going to happen,” he said. “Business is much stronger than that.”
 
            He also said he could envision more games to open the season overseas in some more non-traditional markets. He mentioned Paris, Barcelona. “We would like to continue to expand our European presence,” said Bettman, adding the NHL could be in seven or eight European cities to open the season.
 
            When asked if he might think of having teams tied for the final playoff spot play a one-game playoff – remember, the Panthers and Canadiens were tied last year for the last spot but the Panthers missed out on a tiebreaker – Bettman said, “It’s worked well and it’s fair…it hasn’t been an issue.”

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
DESERT WHITEOUT
 
            Despite all their off-season woes, the Coyotes opened their home season Saturday night with a sellout against Columbus.
 
            The Coyotes and the city of Glendale promoted Whiteout week during the week, holding a pep rally at a middle school and giving shop discounts and gift certificates in selected stores to anyone wearing Coyotes merchandise. The city also handed out free posters at the Glendale Visitor’s Center.
 
            Coyotes GM Don Maloney told the NHL Network late Friday that while it’s been a struggle selling tickets, he’s optimistic about the season.
 
            “It’s important we have a good start, as you can imagine,” he said. “It’s very hard to get people to sign up for any kind of season ticket based on what happened up until about, basically, two weeks ago when it was determined clear cut we were going to be in Phoenix this season. So its hurt the business side. But Doug Moss, our president who’s been in charge of all tickets, has done a good job. They’ve rallied the troops. We’ve lost some good people, some good marketing people, some advertising, some sponsorships, but we're enthused to get back. Our base is low; we’ll have our challenges for those midweek games, as a lot of markets do in the fall when you start playing midweek hockey games. But, listen, if we keep playing well and put on a good show and get people enthused…we may not have the deepest season ticket base but we’re pricing our tickets for everyone to see us play. As we go along and build a little momentum, we’re excited about the team.”
 
Pat Quinn (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Jeff McIntosh)
LIGHTER IN THE WALLET
 
            Oilers coach Pat Quinn had his pocket picked by the NHL to the tune of $10,000 for what the league called “inappropriate comments” following Thursday’s game against the Flames.
 
            Quinn’s comments were made in reference to a play that took place 18 seconds into the second period when the Oilers’ Sheldon Souray suffered a mild concussion after being ridden into the boards and tripped by Jarome Iginla.
 
            “I don’t understand the players of today,” Quinn said. “If that happened in the old days, (Iginla) would have got hit over the head with a stick. That’s the way you used to deal with it. Now you can’t touch them. In the era I come from, you’re supposed to do dirt with dirt.”
 
            Souray is out indefinitely.
 
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
 
            “It’s a different experience painting in front of 1,200 New Jersey construction workers or listening to a fire alarm for three straight hours as you try to paint a giant nose on a hockey player.” Artist Tom Mosser, who spent six week painting ‘The Mural’ at the Prudential Center in Newark.
 
            “I don’t care if you play on the moon to start the season.” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer dismissing a suggestion the Panthers trip to Helsinki contributed to their 7-2 loss Friday in Carolina.
           
            “I’ve been involved in a lot of goofy things and bad things that happened. But this is top three or four for me.” Lightning’s coach Rick Tocchet after the watching the Devils tie Thursday’s game with a second remaining in regulation. The Devils won the shootout.
 
Lucic (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
LUCIC: A RARE BREED
 
            The Bruins and their fans were ecstatic last week when Milan Lucic signed a three-year extension through 2012-13. Lucic is that rare player who possesses skill and toughness, and the Bruins, who watched Lucic score 17 goals last season and a plus-17 rating, weren’t going to let him get away.
 
            “If you start looking around the league, how many players are playing on the top line and having that type of physical toughness and also having some skill involved,” coach Claude Julien told the Bruins web site. “I’d say he’s not unique, but probably a rare type of player and that’s why people keep comparing him to Cam Neely, because Cam had that same element of toughness, but he was a guy that scored 50 goals and he could do a little bit of everything.
 
            “I think that’s what we’ve got in Milan here. He is a guy who can still produce and also give you that respect on the top line that other teams aren’t going to take advantage of.”
 
NOTES
           
            The Canadiens went into Saturday’s game against the Oilers having allowed seven power play goals on 16 chances...Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said he would be a little emotional Saturday when playing against his former teammates in Anaheim. “I had three excellent years there. I had a lot of good friends on that team, people that I will probably keep in touch with for the rest of my life. We won a Cup together. There is always a soft spot for that in the back of your mind.”…Panthers defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on returning Friday to Carolina. “I wanted to come back. But in the end, I’m glad I’m with Florida. We’ve got a great young team and it will be fun, as well. I wanted to come back, but it’s a business and you just have to deal with that.”…British Open winner Stewart Cink is a Thrashers season-ticket holder…The Lightning, still looking for a right winger to play alongside Vinny Lecavalier, signed Mark Parrish to a tryout last week…The Sporting News recently released their ‘Best Sports Cities’ list. Pittsburgh landed atop the list with Philly right behind them in second. Miami was eighth and Toronto was top of the Canadian cities at 36th…Carolina is a black hole for the Panthers: Five wins in 29 trips there.
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