With the 2022 NHL All-Star game now in our rear view mirrors, attention now shifts to the second half of the NHL season and the push for the postseason. Teams will restart their 2021-22 schedules beginning on Monday night.
But before the books were officially closed on the first half of the season and before the start of this weekends All-Star game activities, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media in Las Vegas. As per usual, Bettman opened with a listing of his high points from the season, so far, before answering questions from the press.
Revenues And Attendance
Bettman said that overall attendance is down 5-6% so far this season, primarily due to COVID. He noted that while numbers are slightly down, the NHL was doing better than the other leagues.
Bettman was asked about the attendance situation in Canada, and if that will have a drastic affect on the league’s bottom line. He said that while there was some “soft edges”, revenues are still on track to reach $5 billion.
Gary Bettman says he believes season revenues will be around $5-billion, even considering Canadian team’s restricted attendance right now.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) February 4, 2022
Bettman was anything but subtle when he discussed Canadian attendance restrictions and the Quebec government’s COVID policy. The commissioner even mentioned the possibility that this summer’s 2022 NHL Draft may move away from the Bell Centre if fans are not permitted to attend on July 7.
“It has been extraordinarily painful to see [the Montreal Canadiens] play in an empty building, particularly, as I understand it, people are going to restaurants and bars,” Bettman said. “This is very frustrating for everybody.”
Bettman and Deputy commissioner Billy Daly made it clear that there were alternatives that are still in play for the league. Daly said they’d likely go virtual again. Bettman interjected: “No. I think we might go somewhere else.”
Bettman also noted that Canadian teams have inquired about playing home games elsewhere to try and limit revenue losses. “That’s how troublesome and devastating it is for the clubs,” Bettman said.
Bettman says “a number of clubs” in Canada have inquired about moving games to locations where attendance is allowed.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) February 4, 2022
From Bad To Wirtz
Bettman was also asked about the outburst by Blackhawks’ owner Rocky Wirtz at the teams town hall conducted this past week. For those that may have missed it, Wirtz blasted a reporter for bringing up Kyle Beach.
Here’s the full segment/video. Just ridiculous from Rocky Wirtz. pic.twitter.com/9k9QxKW0gI
— Wally Maz (@WallMaz35) February 3, 2022
Bettman seemed tempered in his response, almost seemingly downplaying the Wirtz’ outburst.
“I think what has happened with that franchise because of Kyle Beach, and with Kyle Beach — for which we all agree was horrible, and they acknowledge as well — I think this has been very emotional and frustrating and draining for the Blackhawks, and Rocky in particular,” Bettman said.
“They’re doing all the things to move forward. They’re doing the work. The people who belong to be gone are gone. New people have been brought in. There’s training. They’re doing things above and beyond what we’re doing at the league level. They’re putting in a wellness department. They had answers for everything,” Bettman added.
“We will continue as we do with all our clubs to hold them accountable, to do the work and make sure they’re doing the right things,” Bettman said. “We would like all of our interactions among players, executives, coaches, managers, fans, the media — we’d like them all to be friendly, cordial, professional. And overwhelmingly they are.
“But this one was a moment.”
Additional Notes From Presser:
- The next Winter Classic (2023) will feature the Boston Bruins and be played at Fenway Park. The Bruins opponent has yet to be determined.
- The Carolina Hurricanes will play a Stadium Series game next February at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Their opponent was not announced. Hurricanes owner Don Waddell said over the weekend “I think within the next 60 days we’ll have an idea of who we will be playing.”
- 41.2% of games played so far this season we’re won by teams that trailed at some point during the game.
- If current viewership rates on ESPN and TNT continue, it will be the second highest viewed season since 1995-96.
- The Global Series will return next fall with games in Germany, Finland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. No mention of Russia.
- The next All-Star weekend will take place in South Florida.
The entire presser: