Gary Bettman will not be in attendance for Kovalchuk contract hearing

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Thumbnail image for 1-bettman.jpgI know the headline of this post is going to freak some people out and wonder just what the heck is going on with the NHL. Don’t worry, there’s actually a good reason why NHL commissioner Gary Bettman won’t be in attendance today at the Ilya Kovalchuk contract grievance hearing in Boston. Tom Gulitti from Fire & Ice fills us in.

Although the hearing to decide the fate of Ilya Kovlachuk’s rejected contract with the Devils is likely to have league-wide ramifications, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will not be attending–at least not the first day.

While the grievance hearing gets underway Wednesday in Boston, Bettman will be in Calgary to attend a news conference promoting the Heritage Classic outdoor game between the Flames and Montreal Canadiens at McMahon Stadium. The news conference begins at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. The Flames and Canadiens will face-off at McMahon Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 20.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is expected to attend the Kovalchuk hearing in Boston and Kovalchuk reportedly put off his trip home to Russia to attend the proceedings.

League business does march on after all and not having the commissioner in attendance at the Heritage Classic press conference would likely not help the opinion of Commissioner Bettman in Canada. After all, a lot of Canadians feel like Bettman dislikes Canada because he’s stood watch while teams have moved out of Canada to America.

That said, perhaps postponing the Heritage Classic press conference until next week might’ve been a good idea. This grievance over Kovalchuk’s stunning 17-year, $102 million contract is a landmark case for the NHL and kind of a big deal. I know that Bill Daly does a great job when Bettman is unavailable for action, but this is a huge deal and more than worthy of the commissioner’s direct attention. After all, Kovalchuk did put aside seeing his family to make sure to tend to business. Maybe he’ll win bonus points with systems arbitrator Richard Bloch for it.

Maybe my problem is in overstating the worth of this hearing, but what goes down here will go a long way towards how things shake out in 2012 come collective bargaining negotiations. This case is the one that will be held up on both sides as to why the system works great or it fails miserably. As to which side says what remains to be seen.