Rose-coloured glasses

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

RALEIGH -- As far as commissioner Gary Bettman is concerned, all is rosy in the National Hockey League's world.

It doesn't matter that television ratings have been non-existent in the United States.

It doesn't matter that the Stanley Cup final pits the smallest market in the league against the second-smallest market in the United States.

It doesn't matter that the new general manager of the Boston Bruins, Peter Chiarelli, is employed by the divisional rival Ottawa Senators and will continue to maintain that status until at least July 15.

"Things are good," said Bettman. "Our vital signs are strong and I have tremendous optimism about the future of our game."

Bettman defended the league's U.S. cable-TV deal with the Outdoor Life Network, saying that, "We are delighted with the treatment we are receiving from OLN."

The league left ESPN with its greater exposure -- and more importantly, its much greater institutional exposure in hotels and bars -- to go to OLN, a decision Bettman says was a wise one.

"On the cable side," he said, "we gave up some distribution, in order to get better coverage."

Bettman did concede, however, that, "institutional coverage is something we have identified as a priority."

Starting with Saturday's Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, all games will be shown on NBC and there have been projections that because of a lack of American interest in the game, and the presence of uninspiring markets, the ratings will be the lowest in the history of American network television.

But Bettman says that the sale of advertising has gone well and added, "I don't think that people decide to tune in or not depending on the population of the markets that are playing."

As for the Chiarelli situation, Bettman said that conflict-of- interest situations are dangerous when they're not exposed. Since the two teams worked out the arrangement, he said, it is acceptable.

On other matters, Bettman said that the highly unbalanced schedule, with teams playing divisional rivals eight times, will be back for next season.

He said that the determination regarding the future home of the Pittsburgh Penguins -- which may be Pittsburgh -- will be made in November.

And he said he has no problem with the rule calling for an automatic minor penalty when a player clears the puck over the glass in the defensive zone. But he also pointed out that decisions regarding such matters are made by the competition committee.


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