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Commissioner Bettman discusses NHL issues on 'OTR'

TSN.ca Staff

11/10/2008 6:44:57 PM

Putting a second team in southern Ontario and eliminating head shots from the game are not simple matters with simple answers, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Michael Landsberg on TSN's "Off the Record" Monday.

When asked by Landsberg if it made sense to put a second team in Southern Ontario, Bettman said he didn't know, and that the answer was more elusive than some people might want to think.

"Obviously, there are tons of hockey fans; this must be the most hockey-centric place in the world. When you're here on a Saturday night at the ACC for a game, you feel like you're at the centre of the universe. No dispute," Bettman said.  "But who would be the right owner? There's obviously no shortage of people who would want to own a team. Whether or not and where you build a new building and how you pay for it - what the terms would be - there are a host of decisions and studying you would have to do before you got to that point.  And we're not at that point because we are not looking to expand and you try and avoid re-location."

When Landsberg suggested it was a logical move, Bettman disagreed.

"But it's not a question of logic," Bettman said. "You don't commit hundreds of millions of dollars on the basis of logic. You study it, and it hasn't been studied because there's been no reason to."

When Landsberg asked if the league was afraid to study the question, Bettman flatly denied the suggestion.

"No. If there was a reason to study it, we'd study it," Bettman said. "And what I've said… If we're going to re-locate, if we're going to expand, then we're going to open it up and look at everything and do the right studies for places that might be interested."

"You know, what's amazing to me, and you're doing a little bit, too," Bettman said to Landsberg.  "What I'm laying out, when you talk about logic, this is the logical way to approach an important business decision that involves hundreds of millions of dollars. You don't do it on anonymous quotes, you don't do it on hearsay, and you don't do it on speculation.  You do it in a very orderly way."

When asked how the league would go about putting another team into the Toronto Maple Leafs area, Bettman said it was up to the Board of Governors, not a single team, to make or break that decision. He also noted that the league's constitution had been looked at by the competition bureau and the league's rules, as applied, were deemed perfectly legal.

When asked about trying to eliminate headshots from the game, Bettman again urged caution.

"You know, it's interesting to me that when we came back from the work stoppage a lot of our fans complained that we had taken the physicality out of the game by opening up the speed and skill," Bettman noted. "We didn't do that - hitting is actually up. There are more body checks in the game than we had before the work stoppage. But if you say you can't have contact with the head, you are going to reduce the amount of checking in the game and you are going to change the way the game is played."

"We don't like any concussions," Bettman said.  "We don't like any hits to the head, but before we run down this road, think about what the consequences to the game are going to be."