Bettman: Fighting an 'overblown' issue
CHICAGO — Gary Bettman knows what success looks like.
He offered parking lots packed by tailgating fans of the Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks about five hours before those clubs played the final game of the NHL's Stadium Series of outdoor games Saturday night.
“It was 16 degrees,” Bettman said. “That is what I'd call commitment.”
Commitment — specifically to the shootout and recent salary-cap projections for next season — was a theme of Bettman's interview with the Tribune-Review.
Q: Since you announced a projection for a 2013-14 salary cap of around at least $71 million, the Canadian dollar's value has decreased. How will this impact that cap projection?
A: It won't, because this system was designed to compute hockey-related revenue (HRR) and all other things in U.S. dollars. We did that so if the cap doesn't go down, then the cap doesn't go up as fast or isn't as high as you would project. We had a lot of experience back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Canadian teams were struggling. The combination of the way we compute HRR and revenue sharing is all based on the U.S. dollar, so we've accounted for (Canadian dollar fluctuation).
Q: What do you see as the greatest tangible benefit to the NHL being involved with the Winter Olympics?
A: You know, the fact is we're not focused on the Olympics. For right now, that's yesterday. What we're focused on is a great stretch run and the playoffs. But the benefit is any sort of (TV ratings) bounce. Historically, the bounce, if there is one, comes when the Games are in North America.
Q: Some of hockey's signature events over the last six years — from the first Winter Classic with Sidney Crosby to the U.S.-Russia game at the Olympics with T.J. Oshie — have been shootout goals. There are some owners want to change the overtime format. Is the shootout here to stay?
A: The fans love it. All the research we do tells us that they love it. If you're a general manager — some like it, some don't — but that's not really the issue. This was something we were giving to the fans (after the 2004-05 lockout). You know what it's like in a building when there's a shootout. Everybody's on his or her feet, everybody's cheering. That's why the shootout will stay in the game. You'll hear a few outspoken people who, for whatever reason, will voice an (anti-shootout) opinion, but that is not the mainstream view.
Q: Where do you stand on fighting in the NHL?
A: It's an overblown issue because it's a small part of the game, and to the extent there are concussions it's a small part of that. Fighting is something we'll continue to focus on, but there hasn't been a consensus from the hockey people — on the side of management — or the players to make a change. I've been told if the NHLPA did a poll that 98 percent of the players would say don't change the rule.
Q: Where and when will the next outdoor game in Pittsburgh be played?
A: (Laughs) I haven't given it any thought. You know, Pittsburgh has been an integral part of this. The first Winter Classic in Buffalo created an instant institution, and the game in Pittsburgh had to be moved because of weather and became the first one in prime time. We're happy that Pittsburgh, as an organization, is willing to be a part of these. We know that hockey fans around the world want to watch the Penguins, and particularly Sid.