“I’ve watched with fascination some of the newspaper reports having me going on sabbatical shortly,” Bettman said prior to the Vancouver Canucks playing the Chicago Blackhawks. “That isn’t the case, wasn’t the case.
“I think people were somehow under the impression my contract had a year to run and got fixated on that. Those stories were, to say the least, inaccurate.”
Bettman said he “doesn’t really keep track” of how long his current contract runs, but said “it sounds right” that it is for at least four more years.
There have been stories in some media outlets that the patience of certain owners is running thin with Bettman.
Some are frustrated with the current US TV contract with Versus, a cable network formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network, that is unknown to many people. Others are upset with the current unbalanced NHL schedule which means some superstars don’t play in certain markets for three years.
Edmonton Oilers chairman Cal Nichols was vocal in his anger after the league voted down an attempt to change the schedule during the recent NHL all-star game in Dallas.
“I think we should be more concerned about the future of the game than specific interests,” Nichols said at the time.
Bettman admitted not all the owners always support him.
“At any given time I am sure there are owners who may disagree with me on certain issues,” he said “But overall I believe I have the support of the owners. I haven’t heard to the contrary.”
In a 40-minute meeting with reporters, Bettman defended the NHL’s U.S. TV contract and said the schedule could be changed when a solution that “makes sense to everybody” is agreed upon.
One issue that could impact changing the schedule is whether the Penguins stay in Pittsburgh or are moved to another city.
“This issue if far from dead,” he said. “We want to make the appropriate adjustments; we want to make our fans happy. We will over time get to that point. I just think people need to be a little bit patient.”
The NHL switched from ESPN, which reaches millions of viewers, after the network offered the league less money and would not give the programming hours the league wanted.
Bettman remains confident Versus can grow hockey in the U.S. Already the network has increased from 64 million households to 72 million, he said.
“We believe we can, which is why we went with them,” he said. “Do we believe we can do it in a year and a half, no.
“We knew that in the short term we would be giving up some distribution for better treatment. We like the treatment we are getting from Versus. They are very NHL-focused in terms of the telecast. Their intermissions are about us, not about everything else that is going on in sports.”
Bettman said the competition committee has studied changing the points awarded for games to three for a win in regulation, two for a win in overtime or a shootout, and one for an overtime or shootout loss.
“The view was based on the dynamics on the way the game is being played, the openness of the game, the predictability, the lead changes we are now seeing with a wide-open game, may disappear,” he said.
“We decided to see, over time, if another change was appropriate.”