Bettman termed the first day a more general session with the NHL owners and general managers, but he did speak to them about the letter of intent to buy the Coyotes presented by the Ice Edge group, which initially was described as four investors but which is now a group of six or seven.
According to Bettman, the league is expecting to break even on any sale. The team was bought in bankruptcy for $140 million, but the sale figure is likely to be higher than that because of other costs and losses associated with operating the Coyotes since the sale. (Although Bettman said that the Coyotes are losing less this season than they did last year.)
"Neutral," Bettman said about the eventual impact of the sale on the league. "We're not looking to make money. We're just looking to do the right thing."
Bettman confirmed that the Ice Edge group has interest in playing some of the team's games in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Halifax had been rumored as a possibility, but Bettman downplayed that. It sounds as if games in Canada would have to get approval at a later date; the Ice Edge group hasn't even been approved to purchase the club yet. Bettman said that there are other groups with interest in the Coyotes; the league still wants to keep the team where it is.
"Phoenix is No. 1 on our radar screen," Bettman said.
Director of hockey operations Colin Campbell gave an extensive video preparation about the game's evolution through the years, with a particular emphasis on head shots. As Bettman noted, head injuries in previous decades were almost always the result of stick-swinging, and sometimes elbows or sucker punches. Now, nearly every head injury is the result of what is considered a legal hit: with a shoulder.
Ducks general manager Bob Murray told FanHouse he was impressed with the presentation.
"There was some really good video on that subject, and it's a subject we have to work hard to address," Murray said. "But you've got to be careful what you do when you talk about rule changes. Hitting is part of our game, and you don't want to change the fundamental nature of the game."
The hits are what get the attention, but Murray said that there needs to be greater awareness on the ice. "I can't believe the number of players today skating with their head down, I just can't believe it," he said.
After the lockout, Campbell said that there was criticism that the new rules put in place to open up the game would create the "No Hit League." Instead, it's created "the Big Hit League," he said.
The issue will be examined in greater depth the next time the general managers meet, but Campbell said that the NHL wanted the owners to have information before then because there is so much concern over players' welfare.
Bettman emphasized that the NHL has been studying the problem of head injuries since 1997 and was the first pro sports league to institute baseline testing for concussions. The league also continues to study the issue and has made changes in equipment and in discipline when warranted.
The commissioner updated the governors on the overall financial health of the NHL, and though the revenue sharing numbers were not announced, a league source said that each team will get $10-11 million this year, down from $15 million.
Revenue for the league is essentially flat, according to Bettman, and considering the economy as a whole, the league is happy about that. Bettman said that the salary cap for next season won't change much unless the Canadian dollar fluctuates wildly.
"My own view is it's not going up dramatically and it's not going down dramatically," he said. "My guess is within a million, a million-and-a-half or two million either way is the swing we're looking at. I take that all back if the Canadian dollar goes to a buck-fifty."
New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello, asked about possible expansion to interested Canadian cities, said, "I don't think there's any question that you should never shut out any potential situation that could possibly make the game better. And I think that includes any market , and not take away [one]. When you add something, you want to make sure you don't subtract."
Islanders owner Charles Wang, asked for an update on the team's potential Lighthouse Project for a new arena, said, "No news, still waiting for the town to decide."
The team has been linked with Brooklyn, where the Nets are relocating, and asked if Brooklyn is appealing, Wang said, "I don't want to do this in the press. You understand."
Asked if Long Island is still a possibility, Wang was less than declarative.
"Yeah, I hope so," said Wang. "Whatever happens, happens."
While Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks is working to sell his Texas Rangers baseball team, Hicks is expected to hang onto the Stars.
Hicks, asked as he was leaving the meeting if his intention is to keep the Stars, responded, "Absolutely."