I closely followed Commissioner Gary Bettman’s comments from when he was here in Calgary last week and from Calgary he went to Winnipeg and did a few more interviews. I noticed he gets a lot of the same questions.
Some of the common questions (& answers), unrelated to the Calgary arena plans:
- $0.70 Canadian Dollar & how that affects the teams
- Basically the short answer is there is a system in place that accounts for fluctuations in the Canadian dollar. The system is the NHL’s revenue sharing model that was in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed between the owners & players in January 2013. All league revenue is in USD and the owners & players split the league revenue 50/50. League revenue per year is approx $4 B. The revenue sharing system sees the top ten highest revenue grossing teams send money to the ten lowest revenue grossing teams. Six percent of the NHL revenue, or about $220 M, is taken from the ten highest grossing teams and given the the ten lowest grossing teams. The average revenue per team is about $130 M. The per year per team salary cap is set based on league revenue and it is expected the salary cap will increase about $2 M for next season from this years $71 M. There is also this concept of an escrow that is talked about. Basically the players are paid a percentage of league revenue but they are paid before the final amount of league revenue is known (it is known at end of year). For the escrow, each pay cheque 16% is withheld from the players pay and held in escrow until end of year when league revenues are calculated. The players are then compensated for the difference.
- Player safety
- The recently released movie “Concussion” has stirred conversation around player safety and long-term impact of head injuries to players. Bettman strongly defends the NHL in this area saying the NHL is the first league to have a dedicated player safety department. The league added baseline testing and testing a player must pass before returning to the game. There have been numerous rule changes to protect the head and well the boards and glass have been made softer. As Bettman says the whole area of head injuries has come a long way from 10 years ago and the movie is further added to the discussion. According to Bettman, the league wants to do all they can to make the game safer for the players.
- There are currently only 2 teams being considered for expansion: Las Vegas and Quebec City. Bettman adds if there was a new team(s) to be added, this would not happen until the earliest the 2017-18 season. The owners only want franchises that can self support as otherwise it ends up costing them and ultimately the players too with the way revenue sharing works.
- 100 year NHL anniversary
- Both the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs will celebrate their 100 year anniversary in 2017 and celebration planning has already started. Plus, it’s Canada’s 150th anniversary.
- 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea
- There has been no decision made whether NHL players will participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Bettman says discussions between the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee have not taken place. I get the impression not everyone from the the league and owners/GM are all in on this as the Olympics are Feb 2018 right in the middle of a busy NHL season and with the games on the other side of the world it may not be a top draw for North American sports fans. Add to it the fatigue factor for players when the season is already grueling enough.
- New 3-3 overtime format
- The league is quite happy with the 3 on 3 OT format. The goal was to have more games decided in the OT and not in the shoot out. Bettman says with last years 4-4 OT, 44% of games were settled before the shoot out whereas this year, with the 3 on 3 it’s 67%. The fans seem to enjoy the skill that shines through in the 3 on 3 as well.
My own impression is Bettman is sure smooth. He’s had the position for 20 years and knows every issue inside and out. Any of the questions that were thrown at him, he knows the issue and backs up his answers with detailed stats. Calgary’s mayor called him “wealthy” and he is right- Bettman makes over $8 M a season. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, however, makes about $44 M. To me, it’s still crazy money but IMO Bettman, agree with him or not on the issues, he’s competent.