Gary Bettman

Despite struggles, Gary Bettman will be around for a long time

In the wake of a turbulent week (to say the least) for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, some hockey fans might be wondering if his days are numbered. The truth is that those numbers might be in the thousands.

The Globe & Mail’s David Shoalts reports that the Board of Governors’ executive committee approved a five-year contract extension for Bettman in November.

Some might rush to judgment that this has been the worst week of his reign, but it’s hard to say. Whether the blame deserves to go to him or not, Bettman resided over such rocky moments as the year-long lockout, the Todd Bertuzzi incident and the Dead Puck Era. Sure, the non-suspension on Zdeno Chara, the Air Canada oddness and the latest chapter in the Phoenix Coyotes debacle make for an awful seven days, but he’s been through plenty of storms in his years at this post.

The one group of people Bettman never lost is the most important one: the owners (or at least the owners who determine whether he gets paid big bucks as the puck commish). Shoalts reports that there might be some thought that the deal might show signs of “cronyism,” especially in the wake of the Boston Bruins’ good luck in terms of recent suspension rulings.

What will surely fire up the conspiracy theorists, who have been venting loudly on all forms of media following Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens, is the identity of the driving force behind Bettman’s new contract. It is Jeremy Jacobs, the NHL’s chairman of the board of governors who just happens to own the Boston Bruins, the team that employs Chara. However, as chairman, one of Jacobs’s duties is to keep the commissioner and the other key executives of the NHL under contract.

Bettman confirmed via e-mail he received an extension. “Old news. I believe my contract has been extended four times, each time with the approval of the board of governors,” he said.

One governor said he believes Bettman also reached an understanding with the executive committee that deputy commissioner Bill Daly and chief operating officer John Collins will also be retained beyond this season. Daly, who earned $1.9-million last season, would only say he does not have a contract.

Jacobs and Bettman are thought to have a close relationship and at least one owner thinks the contract extension smacks of cronyism but some of his fellow governors differ. One said Jacobs made the move with an eye toward the end of the collective agreement in September, 2012.

Bettman’s recent press conferences might give a vague sense of fatigue, but it sounds like he won’t be going anywhere soon.

(H/T to George Malik.)

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.