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Bettman Doesn't Offer Much Insight on the Future of NHL

May 28, 2003|Helene Elliott

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After praising the Mighty Ducks as a Cinderella team "that fought through some times when they were the crisis flavor of the month" and lauding the New Jersey Devils for their sustained excellence, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spent an hour Tuesday saying not much of anything.

There's nothing new regarding negotiations for a new labor contract to replace the deal that will expire Sept. 15, 2004, he said, adding, "There is plenty of time and the issues are not that difficult."

TV ratings are hardly robust, but he said the ratings in Canada are comparable to those recorded the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs exited the playoffs early.

He also said he's "not the least bit concerned about the next national TV contract in the U.S.," even though that five-year, $600-million deal expires next year too.

"I am confident that at some point, the passion of our sport will translate into higher ratings," he told reporters before Game 1.

He also said league officials will continue to discuss whether further limits are needed on the dimensions of goaltenders' equipment and how to maintain or increase vigilance in eliminating obstruction. He pronounced this season's crackdown a success but acknowledged more work is needed.

"My objective is to sit in front of you a year from now after a year of even more flow to our games," he said.

-- Helene Elliott

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