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Bettman spends morning on Long Island

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  • billbarrisles
    October 01, 2002Uniondale, N.Y. (AP) †When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ventured out to Long Island for an 11 a.m. exhibition game, he saw something
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2002
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      October 01, 2002

      Uniondale, N.Y. (AP) â€" When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ventured
      out to Long Island for an 11 a.m. exhibition game, he saw something
      that would’ve seemed impossible not too long ago.

      The seats at Nassau Coliseum were filled, with thousands of young
      hockey fans supporting the once-dormant New York Islanders.

      Gone are the days of failed ownerships of the franchise that once
      ruled the NHL with four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83. Charles
      Wang and Sanjay Kumar are beginning their third season running the
      Islanders, a team that made the playoffs last season for the first
      time since 1994.

      “Long Island has always been great for hockey,” Bettman said Tuesday
      during New York’s 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. “What this
      franchise needed was new ownership, and we couldn’t have done any
      better than Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar.

      “Their commitment to hockey, to the Islanders and to Long Island is
      what’s made this situation work.”

      On Tuesday, all 16,234 tickets were given out by the Islanders to
      school children in grades 3-8.

      As the team languished in the standings year after year, fans stopped
      coming to aging Nassau Coliseum, one of the league’s oldest arenas.
      It got to the point that if a new venue couldn’t be built in cash-
      strapped Nassau County, then the future of the franchise would be in
      question.

      But not in Bettman’s mind.

      “We’re thrilled about days like today,” he said. “We’re thrilled =
      to
      have Charles and Sanjay own the franchise, but we never had doubts
      about Long Island.”

      Wang has enjoyed his time with the team, and still has visions of a
      new home for the club. It just might take some time.

      “We are going through an economic crisis now,” he said Tuesday. “Itâ€=
      ™s
      something that we eventually will get to. I’m sure we’ll build a new
      arena.

      “Meanwhile, even if we don’t put a shovel into the ground for four or
      five years, we still have to make this a comfortable place, a place
      that people want to take their families to, and put a good,
      competitive product on the ice. And we’re doing that.”

      While the Islanders’ picture is brighter, the issue of a new labor
      agreement is not so clear and will need to be dealt with soon,
      Bettman said.

      The NHL’s contract with the players’ union runs through the 2003-04
      season, but Bettman doesn’t want to wait too long to get talks
      started with union head Bob Goodenow.

      “We do talk on a regular basis and the union knows that we are ready,
      willing, able and anxious to begin negotiations at any time,” Bettman
      said. “But the problem is, I think Bob was quoted a couple of weeks
      ago saying that the union is not prepared to sit down until we make a
      proposal that they’re interested in.

      “Obviously there can’t be any preconditions to negotiations and
      obviously there are issues that the league is going to have to
      address. My own belief is the sooner we address them, the better it’s
      going to be.”

      Bettman said the fact baseball was able to reach an agreement with
      its players this summer for the first time without a work stoppage
      has no bearing on upcoming NHL talks.

      “The relationship is different, the systems are different, the
      economics of the sport are different, the dynamics of free agency and
      the like are different,” he said. “I think that it’s not possible to =

      take one league’s experience and transpose it on the other.”

      He did concede to one similarity.

      “I do believe that not having a work stoppage is better than having
      one, and so you try to avoid it if at all possible,” Bettman
      said. “We’re going to need to really to work hard together to fix the
      issues.”

      Gaining labor peace and reaching out to youngsters in an effort to
      create new hockey fans clearly appeals to the commissioner, who has
      been in that position since 1993 and has a contract through the 2008
      season.

      “To have 16,000 young kids from Long Island here I think is great for
      them because there’s a lot going on around the game that is
      educational and fun,” Bettman said. “It’s also great for the
      franchise because I hope all of these kids go home and tell their
      parents what a good time they had and that they want to come back.

      “This is grass-roots marketing at its best
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