NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Nashville on Monday to deliver the keynote speech at the Nashville Leadership Luncheon at Bridgestone Arena. Following the event, he spoke to The Tennessean about local and league topics:
On Tuesday, the Las Vegas expansion franchise, which begins play next season, unveiled its identity. What does that market’s addition mean to the NHL?
It’s another opportunity to continue to grow the game. It’s a market of over two million people that has a high visibility. We’re getting a terrific new owner in Bill Foley and a state-of-the-art arena (T-Mobile Arena). I think it’s going to enhance the league’s presence.
Do you see similarities between Las Vegas today and Nashville 20 years ago in regards to the development of hockey in a city not typically thought of as a hotbed for the sport?
Perhaps. When you take a market that is very well-focused on community, which is known for hospitality and having sports fans and a very active business community, there’s always an opportunity to reach out and touch new fans.
Nashville hosted a highly successful All-Star weekend last season, which lends itself to future opportunities to hold league events. Following this season’s outdoor games, the Predators will be one of seven teams without an appearance in an outdoor game, eight if including Las Vegas. Is there an effort by the NHL to make sure every team gets a chance?
That’s the ultimate goal. If it stays this cold (in Nashville), we might have to think about playing an outdoor game here at some point.
Speaking of the All-Star Game, the NHL released its voting rules Monday for this season’s edition in Los Angeles, which includes criteria requiring players to be on a team’s active roster to be considered eligible. Did the NHL feel these changes were necessary after John Scott’s MVP appearance last year?
First of all, with the extent fans want to write in, they still have that ability. I think it’s important for fans to have a say. Obviously, you want an NHL player at the NHL All-Star Game. And we think all of our players, in some way or another, are All-Stars.
Last year was part of the fun of the event. We have no regrets. It was a terrific event, and John Scott played an important role in that.
By the time we get into January, we need to have some idea because we have to do the schedule for next year. (The IIHF funding costs) is still a work in progress. We’ve said that it’s not even worthy of consideration if they’re not paying the expenses. Even if the expenses are being paid, it’s a decision that the Board of Governors ultimately has to make because Olympic participation is terribly disruptive.
Reach Adam Vingan on Twitter @AdamVingan.