They addressed pressing issues such as potential expansion to Seattle, international hockey competition, goaltender interference calls and much more.
Here are some of the highlights from their press conference.
To Expand or Not to Expand
It’s no secret that the NHL is preparing for expansion to Seattle, but the question is when?
“The good people in Seattle who are in pursuit potentially of an expansion franchise have told us that they are working on the expansion application and they anticipate being ready to file it in the not-too-distant future,” Bettman said. “The timetable in terms of filing the expansion application, doing season ticket drive, is largely up to them. We can respond to the extent that we’re getting the information we need on a timely basis, whatever that timetable is, so that we can go through the processes that we have.”
Much has been made about the favorable expansion draft rules that allowed the Vegas Golden Knights to build a competitive team right off the bat. The Golden Knights sit atop the Western Conference with 68 points.
Those terms won’t be changing if the NHL does decide to expand again.
“I have no doubt if there is going to be another expansion team they are going to insist on having the same expansion terms,” Bettman said. “I think that’s crystal clear. I think George McPhee did an outstanding job of using the rules. We knew the team would be better. The goal was to make the team competitive at its inception, and there is a great mix of talent that’s bonded very well. It’s clear they hired the right coach for the right time and the right group.”
One city that doesn’t seem to be getting an NHL team is Quebec City. The longtime candidate for NHL expansion missed out on the last round of expansion and it doesn’t seem like they will be back in the running anytime soon.
“We’re not currently considering an application,” Bettman said. “I don’t want to make any promises or definitive conclusions. But at the current time we’re not focused on a team in Quebec City. I’m not saying that will never be our focus, but I don’t want to make any promises that could be misconstrued.”
The NHL is in Tampa this weekend because they are not participating in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. This is the first time since 1994 that NHL players have not participated, and Bettman couldn’t commit to the NHL returning or not returning to the Olympics in the future.
“The fact is we find, the clubs find, the owners find that the Olympics are very disruptive on our season, and for that and a whole host of reasons we’ve been over repeatedly over the last year or so, it didn’t make sense for us to attend,” he said. “Could that circumstance change at some point in the future? I suppose so. But it’s not something that we’re currently contemplating.”
Bettman also said that he wanted to look at scheduling another World Cup of Hockey at some point.
“That, like international games in China, is something that we need to do and seek to do in collaboration with the Players’ Association,” he said. “I think we’d all like to get another World Cup scheduled, because the last one in Toronto was so successful. But we’ve got lots of things that we’re collaborating on, and sometimes they take time.”
The Challenge Problem
After numerous questionable goaltender interference reviews in the past weeks, it seems goalie interference has become as controversial as offsides reviews. The problem was addressed at the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Saturday afternoon.
Some players and coaches lamented the subjectiveness of those calls at media day, but Bettman saw it as a problem of overthinking.
“We just had a meeting, Colie Campbell put it together with hockey operations, and there were a couple officials there and some coaches that happened to be in town, some general managers and guys who work with Colie in hockey operations,” Bettman said. “When you say a bit of confusion, that’s right. Overall, the system works, but I think we’ve gotten to the point where everybody’s overthinking the review. The intention, particularly on goaltender interference, is: ‘Did you miss something?’ ‘Was there a glaring error?’ Not, ‘Can you search for something that might overturn the call?’ And I think the consensus of the meeting, although Bill can jump in because I had to leave a little early: it’s really more we need to give a refresher and we’ll send a memo to the officials. Take a quick look, but don’t search it to death.”
Bettman expressed 100% support for all 31 franchises in their current markets, including the Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes.
“Ownership continues to work on the possibilities for a new arena,” Bettman said of Arizona. “Ultimately the strength or resilience or persistence of a club depends on ownership’s willingness to continue the pursuit. So my hope and expectation is that things can be worked out in Arizona, and we’re going to continue to focus on it that way.”
“See, now that Carolina is no longer one that everybody is speculating is going to move — and as I told you, they weren’t going to — I guess everybody is now going to see who they can focus on that. I’m not being critical. My only point is I wouldn’t focus on Arizona moving right now or anytime soon, or maybe ever. So we’re not misconstrued here.”
Stay tuned for continuing coverage of the 2018 NHL All Star Weekend from Tampa.