NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was at the Bell Centre to watch Tuesday night’s game between the Canadiens and Boston Bruins, sitting with team owner/president Geoff Molson and France Margaret Bélanger, the president of sports and entertainment for Groupe CH.
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“I’ll start off by saying I have no news to break,” Bettman said after entering the media room at the Bell Centre where Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis holds his postgame news conferences. “I’m here because I like coming to Montreal to watch games. This is a place that has great passion for hockey. This history and tradition here is unrivalled and it’s always fun to be here for a game, spend some time with France and Geoff Molson. It’s nice to be here on mental health awareness night.
“From my standpoint, watching what’s going on (with the Canadiens this season), there’s an energy and excitement here,” Bettman added. “There’s a young team — a few injuries this year — but Geoff told me … he reiterated to me that they’re committed to building the team the right way, being patient, because they want to be competitive for the long haul and there’s really only one right way to do that.
“Nobody tanks because we have a weighted lottery. You’re not going to lose games to increase your odds by a couple of percentage points. That’s silly. And, frankly, suggesting tanking I believe is inconsistent with the professionalism that our players and our coaches have. Nobody tanks. Our players and our coaches do their best to win. And, again, just because you may finish with the worst record in the league you’ve got something like a 75 per cent chance that you’re not going to get the first pick.”
“Are you going to take the roof off your stadium (the Olympic Stadium)? There isn’t a suitable outdoor venue here. The Molson Stadium at McGill is too small and doesn’t have the facilities and the other venue has a roof, so that wouldn’t be a very good outdoor game.”
“We have an owners’ committee that focuses now on international. Geoff is co-chairman of that committee and there’s a real appetite to take the Canadiens abroad. But it’s got to be the right circumstances, right market. The cost element is something we have to deal with, but it’s something I believe is on the horizon, I’d like very much to take the Canadiens to Europe.”
“I know there’s been constant speculation about that. We’re not in an expansion mode. If we decide to participate or have the possibility of expansion we’ll let the people of Quebec City know — those who might want to own a team. This is a conversation Geoff and I have had over the years. I know there’s rumour and speculation as to what the Canadiens’ position would be and I would tell you for a certainty Geoff has constantly over the years said to me if, in fact, we as a league wanted to expand he’d welcome a team in Quebec City.”
“Every game has been sold out there. It’s a question of standing room. They’re going to be fine. They’re doing better from a gate standpoint in the small building than they were doing in Glendale. I was out there for the last city council vote, which was unanimously approved (for a new 16,000-seat arena in Tempe). Once the referendum takes place in May, assuming it passes, we’ll break ground and start building.”
“General managers, teams make their owns decisions as to how to manage the cap. Some have different philosophies about how much room and flexibility they need and others go right up to the cap and take their chances. I don’t second-guess any of them.
“What we have been saying as recently as the board meeting in December is that based on our current projections, most but not all the escrow (from players) should be paid this season. If there’s still some escrow outstanding then the cap goes up by $1 million. If our revenues are even higher than we’re projecting — say $150 million, don’t hold me to that number, give or take — it’s conceivable — conceivable — that the escrow will be paid off, in which case we use a different formula and the cap would go up by a greater number. We’ll have to wait and see our revenues. If you go back to last season, revenues came in a few hundred million higher than we were projecting. It’s not that our projections are bad, but coming out of COVID the uncertainty. The good news in all of this is the system that we adjusted to deal with COVID is working.”
“People sometimes say they don’t understand something when they don’t like the result. It’s a judgment call. We’re very comfortable with the way the calls are being made, particularly with video review. You shouldn’t make any challenge unless you’re certain that it should be overturned and I think that’s the bigger issue. I think it’s less than it’s been, but historically sometimes the challenge comes because you hope you’ll get it reversed. You shouldn’t be using the coach’s challenge unless you’re certain that a mistake was made — not that you’d like to see a different result.”
On whether Logan Mailloux, selected by the Canadiens in the first round (31st overall) of the 2021 NHL draft, has been cleared to play in the NHL. In 2020 in Sweden, Mailloux secretly photographed an 18-year-old woman who was engaged in a sexual act with him, and then shared the image with his teammates without her consent. He was charged under Swedish law with defamation and offensive photography and fined approximately $1,650:
“We haven’t dealt with that issue because we haven’t been asked to. We’ll have to evaluate his situation if and when the Canadiens decide they want to bring him up to the NHL level. We’ll have to take a good, hard look and I do think at some point in some circumstances with some people when you make a mistake there is a chance of redemption and rehabilitation, but you have to evaluate that on a case-by-case basis. The short answer to your question is it’s not an issue for us yet to consider.”
“The investigation is really close to the end. Doing an investigation of this nature, getting access to information and people, isn’t something that you can just snap your fingers and make happen. We want to get it right. We’re not the only ones conducting an investigation. Apparently nobody’s done yet and so we want to bring it to its conclusion but we’re just not there yet.
On Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov not taking part in a pregame skate recently because he refused to wear the team’s LGBTQ+ Pride Night warmup jersey, citing his religious beliefs:
“We as a league and our franchises try to represent the best values in their communities. We want to make sure that we can make a positive difference in peoples’ lives whether it’s for mental health night or to make certain segments of our society who maybe historically haven’t been involved in hockey feel welcome and included. But, ultimately, players also have to be comfortable in terms of their own individual beliefs and it’s a balancing act. I believe he said it was his religious beliefs and I respect people’s religious beliefs. You have to look at the body of work as a whole and if you look at our players overall, overwhelmingly our players support the causes that our clubs and the league have embraced. But not everybody agrees with everything. Part of diversity is respecting other people’s view.
“If he was not comfortable doing what they were asking him to do that was an individual decision. … The attention should have been really on all the other players who embraced it or the fact that the Flyers had a night that was intended to raise awareness. Everything’s a balancing act and there are always going to be individual decisions and there are lots of issues — social issues, political issues and religious issues that not everybody’s going to agree on. You have to respect in the context of what we stand for as a league and what our clubs stand for and you do have to respect individual choice as well.”
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source: Montreal Gazette