Bettman plays coy about the salary cap, board ads, and offered little on the Hockey Canada investigation in his availability

Photo credit:Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
I guess there are few things less fulfilling that a Gary Bettman media availability. If there is, it probably also involves Gary Bettman. Bettman, for what he’s supposed to be, is very good at one aspect of his job, and that is protecting the interests of the NHL owners. The part of his job where he’s supposed to grow the game, you could argue that he’s just hit his third decade mark of keeping the game as relevant as it was in 1992 but at the least there are more teams. Given that today’s availability was around being a mouthpiece for ownership, it’s really not a surprise that what was said was in line with what they want to be said, and that is caution around the salary cap, people love ads, and there’s no news yet on Hockey Canada to bum you out. Bettman as a lawyer being able to out maneuver sports reporters happy to be covering short availabilities from a Boca Raton resort is probably easy work for him, and that’s why this is all we’ve got to take away from it:
Generally fans, especially Leafs fans want to see the salary cap go up, and Bettman was pretty non-commital on that. There wasn’t a whole lot fired blame wise directly at the NHLPA, but to some degree they were highlighted as a barrier, and again Bettman painted NHL ownership as a group that just isn’t seeing the revenue they want despite the fact that they are likely doing Scrooge McDuck style dives into their gambling ad revenue.
The $1M salary cap increase seems like more of a threat to everyone that if you want to see an increase you better spend more on the NHL or the NHLPA better play ball if they want to see their biggest stars get raises this summer and while it’s pretty clear that everyone would welcome the raise outside of a slim majority of the Board of Governors, the NHL is going to be non-commital until they are sure it’s in their best short term financial interest.
Since this is a Leafs site, we should probably ask how this affects Toronto, and a smaller increase certainly means making some tougher decisions on players like David Kampf, Michael Bunting, and Ilya Samsonov. It was already going to be a challenge if the cap was rising more significantly. There’s also the fact that even a delay of one year before the salary cap starts spiking again makes things more difficult when it comes to the Matthews and Nylander contracts. The NHL’s commitment to screwing over one of their largest revenue generating markets will never stop being bizarre to me.
It’s not surprising that something that prints money for the league and its partners is a non-issue for Gary Bettman. That said I’m sure the fans polled all are the heads of marketing departments, are the primary sponsors of the league, or are cashing cheques for Sportsnet.
Maybe what we’re seeing is the NHL is going to flood us with so many ads that they’ll be able relaunch NHL Center Ice with an ad free option and charge more for the service because they might actually be able to sell that.
It’s taken until 2022 for the NHL to have respect in the workplace training and even as sad as that is, 7 or 8 teams can’t be bothered to do it until possibly the last minute if at all.
Again, sports are a business and I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that the NHL isn’t ready to reveal damning information about one of their key partners before a signature event happening later this month. Somehow I think the NHL will be able to share their findings in mid-January after the World Juniors have wrapped up.
Hopefully if they are taking this extra time they can find a way to create some dialogue between their investigation and the London Police Department as neither side has put the sense of urgency into this that you’d hope to see considering what it involves.
Finally, we’ll end on as encouraging a note as you can get with Bettman, there will be no ridiculous addition of a play-in/wild card round to the playoffs. Given that this is a potential money generator that the NHL is discarding, I’ll count it as a win, especially since it would be terrible.
To say the playoff format isn’t a problem in need of fixing is a stretch though, as moving to either both Conferences using a 1-8 seeding or just going to a 1-16 throughout the league would be an improvement of the divisional/wild card team mess that exists today.
I guess not getting actively worse is as good as it gets.

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