Gary Bettman Talks Shootouts, Head Hits and Coyotes Sale
The commissioner met with with reporters in Palm Beach after the league's two-day Board of Governors meetings. Showing off league corporate partner Cisco's latest advancement in video conferencing, called "Telepresence," Bettman was also able to speak face-to-face via video monitors with writers in New York and Toronto.
As the league looks forward with its technology, it is not looking back on its decision to go to a shootout to determine the outcomes of games tied after 60 minutes of regulation and five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime.
"There has been no move whatsoever to get rid of the shootout," said Bettman. Despite a recent rule change that eliminated points earned in shootout victories when breaking ties for playoff berths, Bettman cited research that says, "70% of our fans in the United States and Canada want a decision" instead of tie games. He also said the league is seeing half as many games go to shootouts this season compared to last.
Bettman acknowledged that there was a "candid discussion" in the Board of Governors meeting regarding penalties and supplementary discipline for checks to the head.
"I think, over time, you'll see less of these hits," said Bettman. In pointing out some recent plays in which players appeared to target the shoulder when in the past they may have gone for their opponent's head, Bettman said, "This is the cultural change we're looking for."
The commissioner also defended his on-ice officials, charged with the difficult task of determining what is a blind-side hit to the head without the benefit of video replay.
"You can't fault them because it happens so quickly," said Bettman. "Our direction to them is that they're not supposed to guess. It's hard to call. You have to make sure it was a blind-side hit. You have to make sure it's a hit to the head. The officials don't get to see the replay."
In NHL franchise news, the league is reviewing the potential purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes by Matthew Hulsizer, a 40-year-old financier from the Chicago area. While he would not predict whether the sale would go through and be approved by the Board of Governors, Bettman was adamant about Hulsizer not looking to hijack the Coyotes to move the team to another city.
"If anyone is speculating that this is a short-term play," said Bettman, "they are off the mark completely. (Hulsizer) thinks a well-run team with identifiable ownership can do very well there. He wouldn't be doing this if he didn't think it was a good opportunity."