Bettman praises state of NHL play
WebPosted Fri, 04 Nov 2005 17:45:22 EST
"Remarkable" isn't a word NHL commissioner Gary Bettman tosses around
but it's how he's describing the state of hockey after a year away
due to the lockout.
Addressing the media on Friday in Washington, Bettman called the new
game more fluid and action packed. He attributes its improvement to
smart hockey fans and a total overhaul of the league's economic
system which features a salary cap.
The facts seem to speak for themselves. Attendance is up more than
five per cent in most markets and television ratings are on the rise,
especially in Canada.
"Oh, do I love Canada," Bettman told a National Press Club lunch
crowd, noting that ratings have risen 50 per cent on CBC's Hockey
Night in Canada and a whopping 200 per cent on TSN since the 2003-04
"Who ever believed it could come back this strong? Actually we did."
FROM NOV. 1, 2005: NHL sets attendance record for October
"Now the team's ability to compete is based upon its hockey, front
office and team-building skills, not on the team's ability to pay,"
Bettman said. "We have emerged as partners with our players and our
While it appears Canadian hockey fans are truly embracing the game,
the same can't be said about Americans. Crowds have been sparse and
downright dismal in locales such as Washington, Buffalo and New
Jersey. Also, the Outdoor Life Network in the United Stated is
experiencing low ratings.
Bettman points out hockey-strong American cities such as Detroit and
Philadelphia are faring well.
"Our fans have set an all-time attendance for the month of October
and we're playing to over 91 per cent of capacity.
"Mere months ago, this league faced what some - not we, but some -
characterized as the worst crisis in our history."
The commissioner said factors like high ticket prices, the
instability of franchises and a huge gap beteen the "have and have-
nots" drove home the need for a facelift.
"There were simply too many bankruptcies and too many owners who had
enough of losing money or not being competitive and too many fans
distracted by our problems.
"Things had to get fixed and this conviction was shared by all 30 of
Canadian teams, Bettman suggests, have been fixed best of all. He
said they're doing "spectacularly well."
"The way this system now works, all teams can be competitive in terms
of talent on the ice," he said.
"All franchises can be not only survivors but fully competitive teams
under the new NHL," and the new revenue-sharing program means
Canadian teams won't suffer because of a lower dollar compared with
Despite the Canada-wide success, hockey fans in Winnipeg and Quebec
City shouldn't get their hopes up about the league returning to their
small-market locales. Bettman said that's "not something we're
looking at right now. It's not on the radar screen."