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#1 insanity_gallops

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 02:27 AM

11:07 PM EST, 02/07/2004
Transcript of Gary Bettman press conference at 2004 NHL All-Star Game

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to St. Paul and the 2004 All Star Weekend.

As you all know, this is the point in the season that we all look forward to when the entire NHL family comes together to celebrate the game and to put itself on display to a worldwide audience.

It's also a moment of particular pride this year for Minnesota, where there is so much passion for hockey at every level and where the connection between the Wild and the community serves as a model for the entire sports world.

As we gather in St. Paul today and tomorrow, we'd like to take a moment to honor the memory of a great son of St. Paul, and a brilliant contributor to our game, namely Herb Brooks. We were all enriched by his commitment to the game and we will miss him terribly.

I want to thank Bob Naegele, Jac Sperling, Doug Risebrough and the Wild organization, as well as the over 1,000 volunteers from all over the State of Hockey for welcoming us with a warmth that more than makes up for the snow or the wind chill outside.

I congratulate the players and coaches on the achievements that have earned them the right to be here. I commend and thank all of those involved with Hockey Fights Cancer. We have had a variety of initiatives that will benefit from the events of the weekend.

Today, Hockey Fights Cancer will donate $75,000 each to the American and Canadian Cancer Societies, and by the end of All Star Weekend, Hockey Fights Cancer will have raised $6.6 million for cancer research since 1998.

The NHL, the NHLPA and Teammates for Kids, the Garth Brooks Foundation will present a $50,000 check to children's hospitals and clinics during the Dodge NHL SuperSkills competition tonight. That money will be used for the construction of a hockey All Star kids legacy program lounge at the hospital.

On average, Hockey Fights Cancer raises close to $400,000 for cancer research during All Star Weekend, mainly through the Hockey Fights Cancer on line charity auction. And in the past four years, that auction has raised more than $1.3 million.

With the hockey events, the entertainment, the monies that will be raised for charity, the fans who will be a part of the various events, including FANtasy, it's easy to see the impact that hockey has, not only this weekend, but every weekend throughout our season, not only on this market, but in every one of our markets. People love the game, people support the game and we at the league know that the greatest fans in sports deserve the best that we can give them both on and off the ice.

Our fans deserve stable franchises. Our fans deserve to enjoy outstanding hockey entertainment at affordable prices. Our fans deserve a competitive environment in which their favorite team has just as good a chance of making the playoffs and possibly winning the Stanley Cup as any other team.

I know these objectives can be obtained and will be obtained. Obviously, we need a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and you would not let me out of the room without at least mentioning it. Simply, it is my hope that the Players' Association will join us in a partnership to bring this sport to a new level. But collective bargaining is a process. There are no shortcuts, and I urge you and our fans to be patient.

So not surprisingly, on a weekend when the focus should be on the ice, I am not providing any new news to you today in that regard.

I also believe strongly that our fans deserve the best possible product. Accordingly, the mandate will be placed in front of the 30 general managers next week and in front of the members of the committee that will meet during the off season to discuss and examine every aspect of the game, to explore every possible approach and to determine what, if anything, can or should be done to make the best game in the world even better. My own view is that more offense can and will enhance this great game.

We find ourselves at a vital juncture. People have asked me if this is a critical moment, and my answer has been, "If we don't properly address our issues, people will look back at this moment and say it was a critical moment." But when we do correct them, and that is my responsibility to make sure that we do so, people will look back at this moment and say it was the moment the league seized the opportunity to meet the challenges and move forward.

I won't be happy until every issue is resolved. While the timeline is not entirely within our control, I am confident that resolution will occur. My preference would have been for it to have happened already, but what I can tell you is that I am committed and the Board of Governors is committed to the game and to the NHL's loyal fans.

Just over seven months remain before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. That is plenty of time for a successful negotiation and I am hopeful that we can achieve one without disruption.

So in the interim, please enjoy the weekend, and I assume that some of you may have a question or two.

Q. You said that, you mentioned offense in particular. If I recollect at the Stanley Cup final you stated it was more of an issue about flow. Has something between that time and this time and I would think perhaps maybe the static line score in scoring changed your opinion on what the game needs to be enhanced?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I don't think my answers are inconsistent. Flow is offense. I believe that the balance between offense and defense needs to be adjusted. I think this is a great game but I think it would be enhanced with more offense.

The statistic that you refer to, the scoring being down 3/10ths of a goal

Q. Staticly.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I'm sorry. 3/10ths of a goal a game is not what is doing it. It is the trending.

It is clear that the combination of goaltender skill levels, which is a function of goaltenders being better, their equipment being lighter, the fact that our coaching has never been better, video review that teams can give each other during the game, has reached the point that there is more 'D' than we should have and we have to get more of an emphasis on offense.

That doesn't necessarily mean a specific number of goals. What it means is more scoring chances, and if you increase the scoring chances, there will be more goals.

But it's not goals alone. There was a game two weeks ago, a 9-1 game. That's not what we are trying to achieve. We want to take our game and take the offense up a notch.

Q. The committee meeting in the summer, what is the time line and what will its outcome be? Can there be a report? What can we expect to see?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The managers will meet next week, and their mandate from me is to take a look at the game and to begin the discussion, there are a whole list of aspects of the game that they are going to discuss. Actually, from the GM's agenda, these are just not things that are necessarily going to be changed in the game but for discussion purposes going to start the dialogue: Goalies handling the puck, goalkeeper equipment, bigger nets, line markings, moving the blue line, making them wider, using the tag up rule, automatic icing and on and on and on.

These are a series of things, three points for a win in regulation, they are going to begin discussing everything. They are going to have an opportunity to do that next week, and then they will have the opportunity to work on it and review it again at their June meeting. What I expect from the general managers as a group is their view on the game and what, if anything, they want to change and why. I then want the committee to use that as the beginning point of the committee's discussion to say, okay, this is the general managers' view, what is our take on their analysis, and is there anything else we should be considering so that, by the end of the summer, I will be satisfied, our fans will be satisfied, you'll be satisfied and the Governors will be satisfied that we've taken a comprehensive look at the game and that we can then move forward, either because we have decided the game is great the way it is, the way a number of players and coaches and managers suggest, or that there are changes that need to be made. But once and for all, we are going to look at it comprehensively and get it behind us so that we can move forward.

That does not mean that we are ever going to stop looking at the game because that's something we'll do. But at this phase, we want to make sure that we have taken a good look, because I am anticipating in the same time frame, having a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It's my vision that we will have the foundation to move forward, the right economics, the right rules of the game, to give our fans and this game a fresh look moving forward.

Q. In terms of time, do you look at the GM's making some kind of final report to the committee in June, something before World Cup, before September?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, it would be before the start of the season and enough time so that the Board of Governors can pass whatever rule changes, if any, need to be made.

The World Cup is not . . . it's conceivable, although, you know, Bill Daly, Ted Saskin and the IIHF might jump all over me, but I don't envision testing rules in the World Cup.

Q. You have the television contract expiring. How are negotiations going in regards to that and is there a possibility that games might not be on network TV in the U.S. and what is the stance regarding visors; we have seen a lot of eye injuries this year?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Television, we continue to be in discussions with ESPN, ABC, our current partners. I am still optimistic that we will have comprehensive, extensive broadcasting arrangements.

My long term view of our broadcasting situation is one that doesn't concern me at all. That's something that will probably be concluded over the next couple of months. There has been a lot of interest from a variety of partners, potential partners, including the existing ones that we have. The uncertainty that next year poses, as we sit here today, obviously, is an issue. But we are on a timeline that is not inconsistent with what I just discussed about collective bargaining, the game, and television. It's my view that everything will be in place moving forward in ways that will enhance this game and enable it to grow.

The visor issue. I've been on record for as long as I can remember and probably because my son played high school hockey, as favoring visors. I've said repeatedly, that if I had a spouse or a child or a parent playing in the NHL, I would be concerned about eye injuries. Eyes do not heal the way that skin and bones do. That's a concern.

Thirty-four percent of our players are wearing visors based on the statistics we have this year. While injuries are down, almost half of the injuries that we have are facial injuries, but the incidence of facial injuries for players not wearing visors is three times greater than players wearing visors. Through the first 500 games, through the first 500 -- and post (500), there may have been an injury -- there was not a serious eye injury for a player wearing a visor and there were six serious injuries with players not wearing visors.

Having said all of that, this is a matter that we continue to discuss with the Players' Association. Some players feel that it's imperative that there be free choice. I've discussed with Bob Goodenow the possibility of doing what we did with helmets; namely, require them for the players coming into the game who have been wearing them in the major juniors and college and that is something that we will continue to talk about probably through collective bargaining. This is not an issue that I want to be picking a fight on at this particular point in time.

Q. We were talking to fans earlier today and they don't quite understand why the two sides don't sit down, get after talks and many were hoping for some sort of announcement this weekend.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Me, too. I would like to have made an announcement this weekend. It would have been big news.

The fact of the matter is that the lines of communication are open. I've been with Bob Goodenow twice in the last month, including as recently as last Wednesday night. We had a formal bargaining session on October 1, which is the only one where players and owners were present. There was a lot of work that was done last spring.

We understand each other but the fact of the matter is, until the union is willing to acknowledge and address the economic problems we're having, the ones that most of you chronicle on a regular basis, the ones that our fans talk to us about, the negotiations are not going to progress.

Having said that, the fact that we know as much as we do about each other's positions, the fact that a lot of work has been done, the fact that the lines of communications are open, when the time is right, this can move quickly. So I remain optimistic that this can get done in an orderly time frame.

Q. One of the subjects you've asked the GMs to look at in Vegas, is dropping the instigator penalty one of them?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think discussion of it is one of the things. As I said, the agenda has a whole list of things that we know can serve as a basis for discussion and we're going to talk about it, so we'll talk about everything.

Q. Would there be a thought of dropping the two minute penalty for getting into a fight while wearing a visor in order to encourage some of the so called tough guys to perhaps wear one?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We are going to talk about everything.

Q. Negotiations, a common starting point may not lead to a resolution but there's no way you can get a resolution without a common starting point. You seem to have your idea of what a starting point would be; I imagine the union does as well. At any time during your formal or informal sessions has there been anything close to a common starting point, not something that will take off and lead to a resolution, but something with common ground that can get you guys going?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That's a great question, and I'm not sure that I can answer that appropriately with a yes or a no. So let me do it this way.

The only thing that we've proposed to the union is a link on a league-wide basis between revenues and our player costs. We have not, as it's been suggested, proposed an individual hard team salary cap. Not that there would be anything wrong with that if we did, but that's not what we've done. The union does not want to have a discussion about what is the fair share the players as a group are entitled to. That is a pretty fundamental issue because I know what our problems are. I believe most of you know what our problems are. I believe the union knows what our problems are.

I think the only way that we can adequately and appropriately address them is by having a defined relationship between the revenues and the player costs. That's the stability and the foundation I believe we need going forward. That's something I'm hoping the union, when it feels comfortable with it and understands that we need to do this, will be prepared to address.

Q. In 2001, you promised that in five years there would be an All Star Game in Raleigh. At what point might we see Raleigh in an All Star Game?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We promised Raleigh an All Star Game. Obviously the timing got a little messed up at Raleigh's request. There were some hotel issues that were supposed to be resolved. I think there was a hotel project that ultimately got cancelled.

We intend to obviously bring the draft to Raleigh and then we are going to have to figure out how best to bring the All Star Game there, but we have been pretty good on our All Star promises. So that's a commitment we ultimately intend to fulfill.

Q. How concerned are you with what's going on in Chicago and how fan interest has pretty much just fallen off the map there?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think Chicago is a great sports town. I think Chicago is a great hockey market, and I believe that the Blackhawks will be back and so will their fans.

Q. Have you talked to the Wirtzes about what their strategy is? This must be a concern for the League since this has been going on for five, six years now.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: There are a number of teams that haven't made the playoffs for a period of time. That's part of the cycle of sports. The Wirtzes are passionate owners and I believe that they will work very hard to rebuild that franchise.

Q. What's your opinion of the deputy mayor of Winnipeg canvassing people for franchises?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We don't have anything to offer him and we're not contemplating expansion obviously. We don't favor relocation. I don't think anybody is going anywhere.

What I do believe is when we have the right economics, all 30 of our franchises can be healthy where they are currently located. So I'm not sure how Winnipeg gets on the radar screen. I'm delighted there's interest, but I don't think there's much that we can envision right now to satisfy that interest.

Q. What happened at the governor's meeting today, particularly as it relates to labor?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: What happened at the governors meeting? We had a business update including a review of the structure of All Star Weekend from a sponsor and fan standpoint.

CBC and TSN came in and spoke to the board, Rick Brace and Nancy Lee were there. There was an update on the World Cup and there was a financial and collective bargaining report to the governors and an update.

Q. You mentioned earlier that the union was not prepared to address your biggest concern, and there seems to be a certain level of defiance in some of the players when we talked to them earlier today. Does the attitude or approach they may be taking in terms of digging in heels, does that worry you or can you assess the strength of the union?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I'm not sure that I understand what you mean by "defiance."

Q. They were asked about the owners and the provisions that they have made for potential lockout and a lot of the players said that if the owners are going to dig their heels in, they don't know how hard we are prepared to dig our heels in on this issue.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I can't tell you what they are being told, so I can't comment on that.

What I can tell you is we know what the problem is. We know the magnitude of our losses. We know that the situation has to be fixed and we want to do it.

All we have proposed is a link between revenue and expenses. That's what unions do. That's what unions exist for. If you look at even the other major sports, that's what the unions do. That's the starting point. How you distribute money, what type of marketplace you create under that system is something we'd love the opportunity to negotiate about. But as I've said before, you build a house from the foundation up; not from the roof down.

I don't know why players are suggesting that they are selling their houses or they are enrolling their kids in schools in other places. Just as I said last September or October when I was at the Canadian sports conference, that I don't understand why for some period of time the rhetoric from the union and some of the players was there was going to be a two- or two-and-a-half-year work stoppage. I don't know why anybody would say that.

We want to make a deal. We want to make a deal that addresses the issues that we all know confront this game because this game will be healthier for our fans and for the players, if we have the right economic system. There's no dispute about that.

Q. One of the things the players say and every Players Association says that they don't necessarily believe all of the numbers that come out of the Commissioner's office or from some of the owners. Have you discussed or had discussions with the Board of Governors about becoming more transparent with your bookkeeping and letting people know exactly what is going on out there?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We believe our bookkeeping is transparent. We believe in our numbers. We believe the URO is both comprehensive and accurate in all respects. The union has been getting the URO since 1999 and we believe that even they believe that the numbers are accurate.

Let's not confuse necessarily rhetoric and substance. Our numbers are good.

You know, I don't need to pick a fight if we have good numbers and we're healthy. If our numbers show that we were profitable, then why on earth would any business want to be looking to have a difficult negotiation? I can tell you for certain that this is a league that's losing a lot of money and needs to correct its economics. I believe that the union understands that.

Q. Can you detail any issues that might exist between the league and the group that has entered into an agreement to buy the Thrashers and any timetable that might exist for the completion of that sale?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I'm hopeful that they will complete their work in the next few weeks.

Obviously there's a variety of documents that have to get completed and they need to be in a position to make the final adjustments with Time Warner. I don't think it's necessary to go into the interstices of what still remains to be worked out. But based on what I've heard as recently as last Thursday from some of the principals involved, there's a commitment to get this done and to get it done in the near future.

Q. Understanding what you said about your optimism regarding the negotiations and also understanding the nature of the negotiations in and of themselves typically, do you experience any frustration with the pace of what is going on or the perceived lack of response from the other side?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I'm not sure that categorizing my response either as frustrated or in any regard is the right issue because it's not about me.

We went to the union as far back as 1999 and told the union that these are the problems and this is what's going to happen and that the problems are only going to get worse if we don't address them. And so this isn't a new phenomenon or a new discussion.

However, and I've said this repeatedly, it was the union's prerogative to insist on whatever benefits they could get out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, to enforce it by its terms to the conclusion. And by the same token it's the owners' prerogative once the Collective Bargaining Agreement is over to collectively decide how they feel we need to move forward.

So it's not about frustration. What it's about is the stark reality. We have problems. The problems have gotten worse over time. Unfortunately we predicted that. As a result, the problems are going to be harder to fix. But we have to fix them and I think the union understands that.

By the same token, the union has now gotten the full benefit of ten years of this Collective Bargaining Agreement. That was the deal we signed and that's the deal we live by.

Q. From your perspective, what was the damage from 1995 from the lockout and what was learned from it?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, we came back very quickly. Our fans are great and all of the polling numbers that we are getting, and I understand one of our broadcast partners just did a series of polls, and what our fans are telling us overwhelmingly is that they don't want a work stoppage. But if we have one and we fix our problems, they will be back.

What our fans tell us is they want to know that their teams are stable, they want to know that the teams are competitive and they want affordable ticket prices. That's what they are telling us overwhelmingly, and they are also telling us that if we accomplish that, no matter how we do it, they will be there for us.

Q. How are they telling you that?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: In the response to the polls that we do and what other organizations are doing.

But by the way, just to give you a more complete answer, I fear more for the future if we continue the way we are than anything else that might happen to fix the problems. The problems, the issues have to be addressed and have to be fixed. Two bankruptcies last year and a series of near misses over the last few years, I know, the governors know, and I think most of you know, and I believe the union knows, we cannot continue this way. It has to be fixed.

Q. Is it possible to attain a new C.B.A. even if the PA never does agree on the UROs? In other words, you say you lose $300 million and they say it's $100 million, but you are still losing money. Can you move past that issue even though they don't trust the UROs?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: There's no reason for them not to trust the UROs. They have had access to them for years. Anything they needed or wanted to do to attest to their accuracy, they could have done over the years. It wouldn't be an easy process. It is not an easy process verifying numbers. It takes months and months and months. But the fact is I think that you cannot ignore it and then say you don't believe it. It's too easy to engage in that rhetoric.

Q. Two-part question. First, where does the league believe the proper percentage of the pie should go to player costs?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Are you negotiating with me?

Q. I'm just asking you where you're at with it.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That's a discussion that we need to have in a conference room when the union is prepared to begin to make a deal.

Q. The second thing I just wanted to ask, do you feel now that you've been on the job for ten or more years, do you feel like you're more prepared and your staff is more prepared for this negotiation than the last one?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think the owners are more prepared. We were prepared last time but I think the league, as a league, is more prepared because it has to be. We find ourselves in a position where we know that this is the opportunity we have to fix what our problems that have gotten quite severe. As a result, we need to do the right things. We cannot use a Band Aid. We can't experiment. If we were going to experiment, we needed to do it two or three years ago while this Collective Bargaining Agreement was still on. We are past that point.

As I said before, the union was well within its rights to keep the agreement in effect exactly as written to the end, but they understood, because they were repeatedly told that the consequence of that would be the damage would be greater and the fix would be harder. This is now a landscape that we have to respond to.

Q. If there was no demand of a hard cap, I'm just confused as to why it is that the players continue to insist that that's what the league wants, and the PA continues to insist that that's what the league wants.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I guess if you're trying to rally your troops or rally this group, it makes for great rhetoric. It's just simply not a fact. We did not we did not propose an individual team hard cap, and I defy anybody to show me a document that shows you that we did.

Q. Are you suggesting that the PA is misleading its members then?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I can't tell you what the PA is saying because I'm not privy to it. But I am telling you for certain -- but I'm going to be very candid with you. There would not be anything wrong with it if we did, but we haven't done that. All we've said, the only proposal that we've made links revenues to expenses on a league wide basis.

Q. Has there been any discussion of revenue sharing within the Board of Governors?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We believe that revenue sharing under the type of system that we envision is something that will be necessary and appropriate and I believe the governors will be fully supportive of that.

I don't believe that revenue sharing, without a relationship between revenues and expenses, is anything but inflationary. It just moves losses around. It doesn't fundamentally fix the problem. But under the type of system we envision, there will be revenue sharing.

Q. Why are you so convinced that the union knows that the numbers are bad, knows that the league is sick, even though they say constantly that the league is not as financially sick as you say? Why are you so certain that they agree with your position when they say the opposite?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: What they say to you publically and what they say to us may not always be the same thing.

Q. Nobody will know the effect a potentially long work stoppage will have on the fans and game until it happens, so it's a matter of speculation. I want to ask you, though, in your opinion, factoring in your fan base, which in some markets is not that strong right now, your primary sponsors and the potential television ramifications, do you personally believe that the NHL can withstand a lengthy work stoppage and come back in its current form with the same number of teams in the same places?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The short answer to your question is yes.

I also believe that all of the things that you raise as issues will happen. Franchises will be at risk. Television will be at risk. The fan base will be at risk if we don't take the opportunity to fix the problems now. I don't believe that we can continue on any sustained basis the way we are. I am absolutely convinced of that.

We have the best fans in the world and my vision is, the right economic system enabling all of our teams to be competitive and healthy, the right television broadcasting arrangements in Canada and the United States, the game having been looked at and we being satisfied that it's as good as it can be; that's the vision of how we move forward, and that's something I know our fans will embrace.

Q. Those three things you just mentioned, the C.B.A., a comprehensive look at the game and television, can they move forward independently or are they tied together in ways that one cannot go in a straightforward direction without the other?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, I think they can all move on parallel tracks. But the fact remains that the game, the rules of the game won't matter, and our television relationships won't matter if we don't have the right economic foundation.

Q. And earlier you said that you personally favored visors. As the Commissioner and I think with the Board of Governors and probably the insurance ramifications as well, do you need the players to sign off on that? Can you not just impose it like the league did with helmets?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: What I also said before was I'm not picking a fight with the union at this particular point in time on that issue. There are, as they say, bigger fish to fry.

Q. Just a clarification. You said that you did not propose an individual team hard cap. Did you proposed a league-wide hard cap?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: What we proposed was a link between revenues and salaries. I think it's a proposal for paying the players as a group their fair share. That's what unions do.

Q. And also, a little earlier you mentioned the two bankruptcies. I think at the time those happened you suggested those were not a function of league economics. Are you now suggesting that players are responsible for those bankruptcies?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I actually did suggest that the financial condition of the league and the circumstances that our teams operate under contributed to it with respect to the infusion of new capital and new ownership.

Q. Unintelligible.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: In fact, if you remember correctly, Bob was very upset when I did that and he wound up issuing a late-night press release denouncing that position.

Q.: Unintelligible.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: You know it's easy to say anything if you don't know the facts. I wasn't referring to you, though.

Q. How did your proposal link salaries to revenues without hard cap?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: It's been said that we proposed a $31 million hard individual team salary cap. That is not true. We just didn't do that. What we proposed was a link between revenues and expenses. The one-pager that we gave the union was very simple. It said, 'These are our revenues and these are our other expenses, other than player costs, this is what we think is a reasonable profit because we have not seen such a thing -- but by the way, we can negotiate over this -- and this is what's left. That's what we would like to start talking about.'

Q. How would it work?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Any way you want. We never got past that, because coming out of the October 1 meeting, the only discussion was. 'they proposed an individual hard team salary cap.' It's not true. We didn't do that. But this isn't news today. Bill (Daly) as he's chatted with you, and I to the extent that I've done it, we've been telling you that all along. It's not new. It should not be a headline. It's not fast-breaking news.

Please, as we go through this process, please don't confuse rhetoric with facts. When somebody tells you something, including us, make us all prove it. I'm comfortable that we will withstand any scrutiny on whatever we tell you.

Q. Are you prepared to make any sort of assurance to fans that if there is cost certainty, if you achieve your goals in the C.B.A., that there will be some cost certainty in terms of ticket prices, as well? In a lot of cities, it's more supply and demand than it is revenues.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I'm going to answer your question, but I'm really glad we are not getting bogged down on collective bargaining on All Star Weekend.

Every market is different. Every club's ticket pricing structure is different. We've actually had some teams that have recently lowered ticket prices. I believe that our current economic system has been inflationary, not only with respect to our expenses, but with respect to ticket prices, as well. And I do believe there is a direct link.

With the right economic system we can take the pressure off of ticket prices, and I believe with the right economic system, many, if not most of our teams, will actually lower ticket prices. I believe we owe it to our fans to have affordable ticket prices.

Q. Do you really believe that the teams that are filling their buildings now with the ticket prices that are now will be willing to drop ticket prices if there's cost certainty? COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: What I said was it varies market to market. The one thing that would not be sensible to do is lower your ticket prices to enrich scalpers. That doesn't make any sense. But the fact of the matter is, more than a majority of our teams would use the opportunity of economic stability to lower their ticket prices. It varies from market to market. As I said there are some teams that have lowered their ticket prices already.

Q. On a certain level, this whole situation seems to be playing out very much the way that baseball's did two years ago. Do you pay attention at all to about how their process went; does it matter, is it something that you've studied?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I pay attention to it but I don't think it matters. One has nothing to do with the other. Our economics are not baseball's economics. Our game is not baseball's game. Our owners are not baseball's owners, with one or two exceptions. Our union is not baseball's union.

What we do has to be crafted and suited to address hockey, to address the NHL, to address our 30 teams and our 700-plus players.

Q. Just picking up on the ticket prices point, an economics professor would probably say that ticket prices should be based on what a market can support and the yield; not on expenses. Can you comment on that and why it is then that teams would lower their ticket prices if salaries went down?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Economics professors generally teach classes of theory in school. They don't operate businesses and they don't operate sports franchises. I've been in professional sports for 24 years, and I'm telling you, there's a direct link between what happens in an inflationary environment where teams are losing money and what they feel compelled to charge for tickets. I have absolutely no doubt there is that link. And that's from real-world experience and not based on abstract theory.

This will now get me in trouble with lots of economics professors in North America, but so be it.

Q. Would you tell us how you think you've done as a commissioner, rate your successes? Just describe whether you think you've done a good job or not and what you think your successes or failures have been?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: No, I don't think I'll do that.

Q. Do you know when you plan on hearing testimony and making a ruling in the Mike Smith grievance?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Actually, the parties have submitted briefs. I think we are waiting for another set of papers, and then ultimately there is going to need to be a hearing.

Q. Are you concerned at all or have other GMs expressed any concern that there might be a precedent type situation?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: You've got to know the facts before you can decide whether or not it's a precedent. And since I have not bothered looking at the facts yet, I'm going to have to have a hearing. I can't tell you whether or not it will or won't be because none of us sitting in this room, with the possible exception of Bill Daly, who has read some of the papers, knows exactly what happened.

Q. I wanted to ask you about St. Paul's performance this weekend.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Spectacular. Even down to the light snow last night, it has been first class. For the people staying at the St. Paul Hotel, it's been amazing because everything has been in walking distance. But the community, we had I think we are using about 1,200 volunteers. We had been asked by 1,600 people to volunteer.

The sponsorship community has been great. FANtasy, which I stopped by this afternoon, was packed. It may be the best attended fantasy we have ever had. The enthusiasm of the community, the coverage, the organization, I can't say enough good things about the Minnesota Wild organization and how they relate to this community. We're looking forward to spending tonight and tomorrow in this magnificent building.

This has been great. To me, this is the culmination of celebrating the fact that we came back to Minnesota, which we probably never should have left, but we came back better than we ever could have been. Being in St. Paul, being in the Xcel Energy Center and this ownership group.

Q. When will St. Paul see the next All Star Game?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: There's a long line. Carolina was just asking for one.

Q. I know you said you don't want to build a house from the roof down, but are there some elements like the color of the house you can agree on, talking points, like the scheduling?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Some of you are chuckling, but that's really the right question. What unions do is they negotiate what their members are going to get. That's what unions do. They even do it in professional sports. And so once you agree as to what the fair share is that belongs to the players, so that the game is healthy, so that the franchises are healthy. so that the game can grow.

The task of figuring out how to distribute it is really something that we should be able to reason together on very easily. What the rules are for the entry level, what the rules are for the draft, what the waiver rules are, what free agency rules are, how the players get paid, whether or not there are guaranteed contracts and how they work, all of those things fall into place very easily because you have a common goal to make the game healthy and competitive.

But it starts with what is fair. That's all we've been talking about.

Thank you. Enjoy the weekend.
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#2 David Puddy

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 02:59 AM

Does anyone want to read this and pull out the good stuff? I'm kind of out-of-it right now.
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#3 insanity_gallops

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 03:03 AM

I can give a quick summary from what I've read of it so far:

Reporters ask the same old questions.
Bettman gives the same old answers.

Reporters try to ask pressing questions to put Bettman in corner.
Bettman makes general statements and gets out of corner.
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#4 David Puddy

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 03:20 AM

Yeah, it's basically that. It must suck getting asked the same crap all the time. I decided to actually read it, so here're the goods...

My favorite quote of what I've read:

What our fans tell us is they want to know that their teams are stable, they want to know that the teams are competitive and they want affordable ticket prices.  :clap:   :clap:   :clap:   :clap:   :clap:


Other good stuff:

CBA


The only thing that we've proposed to the union is a link on a league-wide basis between revenues and our player costs. We have not, as it's been suggested, proposed an individual hard team salary cap. Not that there would be anything wrong with that if we did, but that's not what we've done. The union does not want to have a discussion about what is the fair share the players as a group are entitled to. That is a pretty fundamental issue because I know what our problems are. I believe most of you know what our problems are. I believe the union knows what our problems are.

I think the only way that we can adequately and appropriately address them is by having a defined relationship between the revenues and the player costs. That's the stability and the foundation I believe we need going forward. That's something I'm hoping the union, when it feels comfortable with it and understands that we need to do this, will be prepared to address.


We cannot use a Band Aid. We can't experiment. If we were going to experiment, we needed to do it two or three years ago while this Collective Bargaining Agreement was still on. We are past that point.

As I said before, the union was well within its rights to keep the agreement in effect exactly as written to the end, but they understood, because they were repeatedly told that the consequence of that would be the damage would be greater and the fix would be harder. This is now a landscape that we have to respond to.


Q. If there was no demand of a hard cap, I'm just confused as to why it is that the players continue to insist that that's what the league wants, and the PA continues to insist that that's what the league wants.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I guess if you're trying to rally your troops or rally this group, it makes for great rhetoric. It's just simply not a fact. We did not we did not propose an individual team hard cap, and I defy anybody to show me a document that shows you that we did.

Q. Are you suggesting that the PA is misleading its members then?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I can't tell you what the PA is saying because I'm not privy to it. But I am telling you for certain -- but I'm going to be very candid with you. There would not be anything wrong with it if we did, but we haven't done that. All we've said, the only proposal that we've made links revenues to expenses on a league wide basis.


Q. Why are you so convinced that the union knows that the numbers are bad, knows that the league is sick, even though they say constantly that the league is not as financially sick as you say? Why are you so certain that they agree with your position when they say the opposite?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: What they say to you publically and what they say to us may not always be the same thing.


Q. ... do you personally believe that the NHL can withstand a lengthy work stoppage and come back in its current form with the same number of teams in the same places?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The short answer to your question is yes.

I also believe that all of the things that you raise as issues will happen. Franchises will be at risk. Television will be at risk. The fan base will be at risk if we don't take the opportunity to fix the problems now. I don't believe that we can continue on any sustained basis the way we are. I am absolutely convinced of that.


Jokah

Q. Would you tell us how you think you've done as a commissioner, rate your successes? Just describe whether you think you've done a good job or not and what you think your successes or failures have been?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: No, I don't think I'll do that.  :joker:



ASG

This has been great. To me, this is the culmination of celebrating the fact that we came back to Minnesota, which we probably never should have left, but we came back better than we ever could have been. Being in St. Paul, being in the Xcel Energy Center and this ownership group.



Rule Changes

Q. The committee meeting in the summer, what is the time line and what will its outcome be? Can there be a report? What can we expect to see?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The managers will meet next week, and their mandate from me is to take a look at the game and to begin the discussion, there are a whole list of aspects of the game that they are going to discuss. Actually, from the GM's agenda, these are just not things that are necessarily going to be changed in the game but for discussion purposes going to start the dialogue: Goalies handling the puck, goalkeeper equipment, bigger nets, line markings, moving the blue line, making them wider, using the tag up rule, automatic icing and on and on and on.

These are a series of things, three points for a win in regulation, they are going to begin discussing everything. They are going to have an opportunity to do that next week, and then they will have the opportunity to work on it and review it again at their June meeting.


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#5 insanity_gallops

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 03:24 AM

Thanks Puddy. I'll actually sort through the rest of it tomorrow as a procrastination method. :)
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#6 Don

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 09:13 AM

As for this hard cap thing, another economist on CBC pointed this out:

The NHL has said what they want is a link between revenue and player expenditures. Something like:
((total NHL revenue) x (% that is to go to players)) / 30 teams

So, let's take some stupid numbers that I'm pulling out of my hat:
((2 billion dollars) x (60%)) / 30 teams = $40M per team

So what is that $40M? IT'S A HARD CAP. No team is allowed to go past that $40M.

So Bettman says "No it's not a hard cap. It's a link between revenue and costs."
Goodenow says "Yes, it's a hard cap. Teams will have an upper limit above which they cannot go."

Posturing.
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#7 Triumph

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 12:40 PM

But as revenue increased, couldn't this spending number increase too? Would it be ascertained every year?

It is not a 'salary cap', technically speaking.

And I think that's an excellent proposal. The rich teams should be for it because it assures them greater profits, and the poor teams should be for it because it ensures a deceleration of player salary increase.
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#8 Don

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 02:10 PM

Yes, if revenues increased one year, the "cap" would go up the next.

And you can see why both camps can look at the same set of facts and one side comes away saying "cap" and other says they never proposed a cap. There is a set upper limit beyond which even rich teams cannot spend.

Yes, the owners love the proposal. The PLAYERS hate the proposal since they are currently getting 76% of total revenue. And what has driven salaries through the roof is the rich teams with no cap going out and spending almost $80M on payroll. Those are the teams that caused the tripling in salaries.

There are other things thrown in such as "teams will under-report revenue"... mostly red herrings. They just do not want a cap placed on the rich teams.
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#9 CRASHER

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 02:20 PM

the one thing a cap WILL need is a low-end figure to make the Wirtzes of the world
spend money and put a good team on the ice too (in theory).. something maybe
in the $30-33 mil range perhaps ?? In a way it's a downside guarantee for the
players too

... of course I'd hate to be the 12-odd teams OVER the cap now :P
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#10 Triumph

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 02:31 PM

Wirtz doesn't spend money? He spent 2.6 million on Jon Klemm 2 offseasons ago, about the same on Fleury, and 6 million a year for Doug Gilmour in 98. He spends money, but he does so very foolishly.

This isn't a revenue sharing program, so the only way a team will make any money is by fielding a competitive team.

The problem with the current CBA is not teams that do poorly, it's teams that have to sell off their best assets for relatively little because they don't have the cash to pay them. With this setup, it's less likely that would happen, since players couldn't earn as much to begin with (seeing as how their price would be determined by the market, a market which would have little room).
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#11 CRASHER

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 02:42 PM

I was merely using my pathetic BlackHawks as an example as a team that would
be on the low-end of the salary pole (Pittsburgh too since they only seem to care
about paying Princess Maria :P )

Klemm wasn't too expensive.. and they've been unloading players left right
and sideways since I've been watching them..... and now it's even worse cause they refuse to spend a THING till this CBA is done... I was just citing them as a team
of obvious example who has the MEANS to spend more but not the desire....
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TWO TIME (2005, 2006) Award Winner and the man who can show Jeremy Roenick what a REAL loudmouth is all about.... hell this mouth roars SO loud, they retired the DAMN AWARD!!!! But how do you be emotional about an award for being most emotional when you're sharing it?

2008 NJDevs Stanley Cup Winner for best overall poster... where's my damn ring?

June 6, 2007... the NHL dies just a little bit.....
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#12 Nieuwy25

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 02:49 PM

Klemm's been a good pick-up for Dallas.

And what's this story about being stuck around here, Crasher????? :lol:
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#13 CRASHER

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 02:51 PM

Klemm's been a good pick-up for Dallas.

And what's this story about being stuck around here, Crasher????? :lol:

Well I told them he would be :D

eerrrr.... ummmm... well.... stir crazy ??? Umm... stuff not for the list ???
Behind the Recaps Fodder ??? :blink:
Long story... would require too much explaining on here :P
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Pay homage to the INCREDIBLE scoring goalie!!!! :-)

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CRASHER's official list of high stick victims from this forum:
gionta182, devilsfan26 .... WHO'S NEXT??

2005 Fantasy Football League Champion... Bow to my Football knowledge !!!!!!

2003-04 NJDevs.com winner of the Masterton Award for Dedication to the Devils(still proud of that one !)

4, Four (!?!?) Time (2005-2008) NJDevs.com winner of the Whoever the damn Award for the funniest poster in the land is named after...(geesh... post pressure, but I seem ok with it!)
TWO TIME (2005, 2006) Award Winner and the man who can show Jeremy Roenick what a REAL loudmouth is all about.... hell this mouth roars SO loud, they retired the DAMN AWARD!!!! But how do you be emotional about an award for being most emotional when you're sharing it?

2008 NJDevs Stanley Cup Winner for best overall poster... where's my damn ring?

June 6, 2007... the NHL dies just a little bit.....
.. April 20, 2008...it gets a little better :)




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