Gary Bettman, who as commissioner brought the NHL its first over-the-air television contract in 20 years--and also brought about its longest labor stoppage--was offered a contract extension Thursday by the league's Board of Governors during meetings at Palm Beach, Fla.
Bettman, formerly third in command at the NBA, was hired by the NHL in December, 1992, and became its first commissioner on Feb. 1, 1993. His original agreement was for five years at about $1 million per year.
Terms of the extension remain to be negotiated but Harley Hotchkiss, chairman of the Board of Governors, said the board intends to keep Bettman for the duration of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Assn. That agreement, which ended a 103-day lockout invoked by Bettman last season, runs through the 1999-2000 season.
"We think the most important responsibility we face as governors is maintaining strong and stable leadership, and we think Gary Bettman has given us that," said Hotchkiss, chief executive officer of the Calgary Flames.
Bettman has not formally accepted the extension but said he was "flattered and honored the board has confidence in me. . . . I wouldn't have let it get to this point if I wasn't interested in staying."
The governors also moved toward determining the fates of the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets.
Bettman said Norm Green signed a letter of intent to sell 100% of the Stars to Thomas Hicks, who heads a Dallas investment firm, and the Jets' owners signed agreements to sell the team to Richard Burke and Steven Gluckstern, who will move the club to Phoenix and take on Jerry Colangelo as a limited partner.
Bettman said he anticipates formalities will be completed in time for the governors to give final approval to both transactions at their next meeting, in January.
The future of the Florida Panthers, who were put up for sale by owner Wayne Huizenga, remains unclear. The Panthers are unhappy with their lease at Miami Arena and have been unable to get help in financing a new building.
"We're still studying it and the issue will continue to percolate," Bettman said.
The meetings will continue today.