The Stanley Cup Playoffs returned to HP Pavilion on Wednesday night as the Sharks continued their physical first-round series with the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal match-up.
On hand to watch the game was National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman who also used the visit to meet with the Sharks ownership group as well as the local media earlier in the day.
Bettman, who recently celebrated his 15th anniversary as commissioner of the NHL, offered many insights into the National Hockey League, the San Jose Sharks and their first round match-up with the Nashville Predators, Sharks fans and the NHL’s partnership with Versus.
Here are excerpts from Bettman’s conversation with the media:
On the San Jose Sharks:
“As I try to get around to as many places as possible, this is always a favorite stop of mine. The building atmosphere is great. This is a team that from its inception has been well-run, well-received in the marketplace and competitive. The fans here are great.”
On the physical series between the Sharks and the Predators:
“The series has been extremely intense. As series tend to do, they get their own rhythm and momentum. I think both teams were feeling each other out. Now they’re more concerned with winning than they are with anything else, which is the way that it should be. When you have two teams that both had great regular seasons, as this match-up is a show of, there’s a lot at stake and there’s no question that both organizations from top to bottom are extremely passionate. I think this series has demonstrated exactly how passionate they are.”
“The officials have been outstanding this year, following up last year and maintaining the standard. And I think the players have adjusted extremely well. As you look at the regular season, we’re actually a couple penalties down a game compared to last season. That wasn’t because we slackened off on the standards. It’s just that everybody, coaches, players and officials have adjusted very well. “
On rescinding game misconduct penalties:
“There are two consequences to a game misconduct; what happens in that game and then the cumulative effect and whether or not additional discipline is required or imposed automatically. Officials have a very tough job and much, much, much more often than not they get it right. The benefit of having a subsequent review of the misconduct is we have the right and the benefit of hindsight, using video, seeing everything else that’s going on to get it right so the cumulative effect doesn’t result from the wrong determination. But the officials have a tough job and while occasionally a misconduct may have to be reversed, for the most part they are not. And for the most part, the officials are getting it right. It’s very easy to second guess officials.”
On the use of video replay in the NHL:
“We think our replay works extremely well for the purpose that we use it which is reviewing whether or not we have good goals. If you extend it beyond that…you know, this isn’t a sport where you play for five and seconds then rest for 45. This is non-stop action. Frankly, most calls are not susceptible to video replay. It depends on the camera angles, there are a lot of optical illusions, what else you see and what you don’t see. It works very well for seeing if we have good goals. Beyond that I think it would be a mistake and I think would turn the game into something that wouldn’t be particularly entertaining.”
On TV ratings on Versus:
“For the regular season we were up double digits. I think we’re down a little in the first round of the Playoffs but there’s a reason for that which is why I am not concerned. Versus blacks out the first round. They don’t have exclusive games and we have more big market teams that are being blacked out than we did last year at this time. So I think if you equalize for that, we’re probably on par or up.”
On Sharks fans:
“Extremely passionate. I remember going to games at the Cow Palace. Knowledgeable. Passionate. Very connected to the team and the game. In the past, I have done some season ticket holder forums…questions are always good…insightful. But I think, as I said in my opening remarks, that’s a testament to how well-run this franchise has been since the inception. How well this franchise has become a part of the community. And the fact that this team has been consistently competitive, some years better than others, but always putting an entertaining and competitive team on the ice and the community has responded incredibly well and for that we are grateful.”
On the partnership with Versus:
“We wanted and needed and desired a partner who would give us the importance and prominence that our previous partner couldn’t give us.”
“When you look at their playoff coverage, having double headers, which is great, running hockey movies, the intermissions are devoted to hockey not other sports, nightly wrap-ups that are hockey-centric, hockey focused exclusively. Wall-to wall coverage is great. And we knew that in the short-term we were going to be giving up some distribution in order to get that type of importance, that type of prominence. Versus is growing. When we joined them they were in 64 million homes a year and a half ago. They’re now in 72.5 million homes. They’re continuing to grow.”
“From our standpoint, if we had to make this decision all over again, we’d make the same decision because this is a great treatment…an important that we get and they’re growing.”
On the Collective Bargaining Agreement:
“Under this agreement there are two important aspects. One…every team has the opportunity to be competitive. That’s the advantage of the salary cap. That’s the advantage of having only a $16M range. Money is no longer a factor in a team being competitive. It comes down to management. How well you put your team together. How well you choose to spend your money. The chemistry you put together both in terms of your coaching, your front office and most importantly your players. You’ve seen the competitive balance last and this year has been incredible. The second is every club should be able to break even within that framework. The club can make decisions that it wants to spend a little more on some things than other things because long-term they think that’s the investment they need to make. But you can be competitive under this agreement and break under this agreement. What you choose to do beyond that is an individual club decision.”
Click here to watch Dan Rusanowsky's interview with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.