Gary Bettman

Bettman: “there are people who believe that the game has never been better”


As the Sept. 15 expiration of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA creeps closer, “there are people who believe that the game has never been better,” said league commissioner Gary Bettman in a wide-ranging interview with Sports Business Journal.

Presumably Bettman doesn’t disagree with those people, as he references “the competitive balance” and “the excitement and the entertainment the game has provided.”

The business of hockey has never been better either. Revenues have grown 50 percent since 2006-07, from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion.

Suffice to say it was a far different story prior to the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. Numerous teams were in dire financial straits back then, and the on-ice product, bogged down by clutching and grabbing, left much to be desired.

The result was a salary cap, aka “cost certainty.”

“(We) knew during the year off that (the fans) understood our problems and wanted us to fix them,” Bettman said. “So I wasn’t surprised that with a healthier foundation, we could grow the game in ways the game had never seen.”

All of which begs the question – if everything is going so well, why are so many people predicting another work stoppage?

At this point, all we can do is speculate. But perhaps the answer lies with the players’ association, led by new chief Donald Fehr.

Perhaps this time it will be the union that goes on the offensive, looking to claw back some of what it surrendered in the last negotiation.

Perhaps all the good news coming out of the NHL offices is a way to sell the status quo, despite speculation the owners will attempt to cut the players’ share of revenue from 57 percent to 50 percent, or even lower.

With CBA talks reportedly set to begin Friday, we should start to learn more about the positions each side will be taking.

Report: Islanders cut first-rounder Barzal from camp

Mathew Barzal
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It seems Mathew Barzal has played in his last game in a New York Islanders’ uniform for a little while.

Barzal took part in the Islanders’ preseason finale against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, but after that contest the Islanders decided to return him to WHL Seattle, per Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

He was taken with the 16th overall pick in 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That selection was well-traveled as it originally belonged to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was involved in the David Perron trade and then moved to the Islanders as part of Edmonton’s deal to get Griffin Reinhart.

Barzal is noteworthy for his skill and speed, but he may have slipped in the draft due to a knee injury he sustained during the 2014-15 campaign.

The Islanders also reassigned Kirill Petrov, Kevin Czuczman, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Torres offered in-person hearing, potentially setting up long suspension

Torres hit

What will Raffi Torres get this time?

The 33-year-old forward that has become known primarily for his controversial hits has once again put himself in the sights of the NHL’s Department of Players Safety. They confirmed that he was offered an in-person hearing following his hit on Jakub Silfverberg Saturday night. He declined the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face, but the offer itself is an important detail because it gives the league the option to suspend him for more than five games.

It certainly seems like the stage is set for a lengthy suspension. While Torres is not considered a repeat offender as his last suspension came more than 18 months ago, the NHL still retains the right to consider his history when deciding on this matter.

Among other incidents, he was once was banned from 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa in 2012, although it was later reduced to 21 contests after an appeal. The NHL found that Torres was guilty of breaking three rules for that hit; namely interference, charging, and illegally hitting the head. The NHL is reviewing Torres’ latest incident for the same three violations.

You can see the hit below:

And here it is slowed down:

Torres got a match penalty and Silfverberg left the game. Fortunately, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said that Silfverberg could have returned, but was kept out for precautionary reasons.