Bettman: We're not moving any teams

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:44 PM ET

CALGARY — Gary Bettman is well aware of the interest for NHL teams in Winnipeg, Quebec City and Southern Ontario.

But the league’s commissioner said Thursday in Calgary those fans will have to continue waiting.

Despite the financial and attendance struggles of several teams south of the border, relocation or expansion to Canada isn’t in the plans, Bettman said.

“At some point, if we have to relocate, I know there’s interest in a number of Canadian cities whose situation — such as Winnipeg or Quebec City — is different than it once was, and we’ll look at it at the time, but we’re not looking to relocate and we’re not looking to expand,” he said.

The season is more than 60% complete and many teams appear to be weathering the storm of a depressed economy, but there are plenty of struggles.

Teams such as Phoenix, Atlanta, Nashville, Florida, Colorado, Carolina, Columbus, Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders are struggling at the gate.

There are groups in Winnipeg, Quebec City, Toronto and Kitchener clamouring to bring teams there, but Bettman said he doesn’t foresee anything in the works.

He wouldn’t address his thoughts of a second team in Toronto — which many believe to be an under-served market.

“We’re not moving any teams right now and we’re not expanding, so it’s really academic at this point,” Bettman said.

To plead his case, Bettman pointed out the Coyotes are starting to move forward thanks to a strong on-ice performance this season after the tumultuous off-season which required the league to take over the franchise and is now in the process of selling to local ownership.

“Under very difficult circumstances, we think the team is doing well, and it’s doing well still in the face, from a fan’s standpoint, of uncertainty, because they still want to know ultimately, who’s going to be the owner,” he said. “It won’t ultimately do well enough until there’s a new owner and the fans in Phoenix know who the owner is.”

Bettman touched on a number of issues during his trip through Calgary, which was part of a tour throughout Western Canada.

He wouldn’t divulge whether Calgary will host an outdoor game next season. There have been rumblings of onein conjunction with Hockey Day in Canada.

“We’re not in the position yet to make any commitments or make any promises, but we’re looking at the subject very closely,” Bettman said.

He said he’s not completely writing off players going to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia, although he doesn’t appear warm to it.

“That’s something that, at the appropriate time, we’ll sit with the players’ association and decide what we think is best for our game to do,” he said. “Every time I discuss the pluses and minuses, and I articulate what the minuses are, people say, ‘They’ve made up their mind. They’re not going.’ It’s difficult for any business, any league, to shut down for two weeks, with the loss of attention and everything that flows from it. And there are competitive issues.

"Our teams send varying amounts of players, so a team which sends eight or nine players may come back a little more tired or banged up than a team that sends none or one or two. That’s something we have to take into account.

“The question we have to decide with the players — and I know the players are passionate about representing their countries — is it worth it? In some places, the benefits are greater for Olympic participation than others.

“When you’re in Vancouver or Salt Lake City, in North American time zones and getting that type of coverage, then you’re getting coverage that may be commensurate with shutting down. When you’re halfway around the world, maybe the coverage isn’t at great.”

Of course, the issue of head shots continues to follow him, and Bettman insisted the league is studying what steps to take.

“It’s not about studying it in general, you have to be more precise,” he said. “When it comes to elbows to the head, leaving your feet, targeting your head, we have standards on that, 20-game suspensions, and you don’t see that. What we’re studying, which may be a little different in the major juniors last week, is what do you do with what’s otherwise a legal check that results in a shoulder to the head. Is that something we can precisely legislate against without taking the physicality out of the game.

“That’s not an easy question to respond to, and that’s why it takes study and work.”


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