Bettman talkin' proud

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Stealing a page from their hoops cousins, NHL players will now be required to wear tuques and plaid shirts fondly referred to as "Kenora dinner jackets."

Just kidding.

"I think our guys are consistently well attired and represent this game spectacularly across the country," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was in a noticeably upbeat mood during during the annual Sports Media Canada luncheon at the Royal York Hotel yesterday.

Sorry, David Stern. No dress codes here.

In fact, Bettman likes pretty much everything about the post-lockout NHL:

- Visors: Mandatory visor use was discussed during the final stages of collective bargaining, but the union requested a poll of players be conducted on the matter before a final decision is made. "We've been on record as saying we feel visors should be worn," Bettman said. One proposal would see players currently in the league have the choice of whether to wear a visor while those entering the league henceforth would be forced to use one.

- Hazing: "Other than the expensive dinner for rookies who now have a minimum salary of $450,000 US, that's about as far as we've seen in modern times of hazing. That's the only extent we've seen. As far as physical hazing of teenagers or children, it's unacceptable."

- The new rules: "Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive," Bettman said, pointing out that half the tie games have been settled in overtime, up from 20% in 2003-04. "Teams might be pushing more because they don't want to go to a shootout."

- Expansion: "We're not looking at any expansion right now." Sorry, Winnipeg and Quebec City.

- Attendance: "It's up from 2003-04," said Bettman, adding that teams are playing to 93% capacity. "That fact that we are up 5% is spectacular." Asked about the empty seats in markets like Phoenix and Washington, Bettman said, "We'll be fine."

- Anti-Ted Saskin sentiment: "It's an internal union matter. Ted has worked diligently for the players ... but in the final analysis this will be a players' decision."

- Players' escrow payments: The first amount levied on player salaries reportedly was 12%. Bettman admitted the figure could go down, depending on revenues.

- The league's sexy ad campaign: "People like it, people don't like it but the fact is, everyone knows about it. And that is what a campaign is supposed to do."


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