SUN Hockey Pool

Bettman: Give 'em what they want

BOB MACKIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:28 PM ET

Commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday the National Hockey League would give "fans what they want, when they want and where they want."

Unfortunately he was talking about the league's new media strategy, not allowing more interconference games.

"All the clubs voted a year and a half ago to enhance divisional play and divisional rivalries and using that format last year we set an alltime attendance record," Bettman said during a pre-game news conference.

"Divisional play tends to have the most intense games and most meaningful games."

Canucks play Northwest division rivals eight times each and have four games against each of the remaining 10 Western conference franchises. They meet 10 Eastern conference squads for single games.

Bettman said only 25 per cent of NHL fans polled oppose the scheduling formula.

Meanwhile, Phoenix Coyotes' assistant coach Rick Tocchet was accused one year ago yesterday of financing a New Jersey gambling ring that authorities said included Wayne Gretzky's wife Janet. Tocchet, who was suspended by the league, has not been indicted.

Bettman denied the NHL is in a moral conflict despite a growing reliance on gambling sponsorship and lottery revenue.

"One is illegal and one is legal," Bettman said. "That's not a very difficult balancing act."


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