Commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual media tour of the first round of the NHL playoffs typically provides fans and the media with unique insights into the state of the league and its franchises, the kind of information one can only get from an interview with the curator, and this year’s tour was no different. Speaking to reporters during the first intermission of last night’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bettman provided an update on various NHL situations. One of the biggest updates he gave, as relayed by Joe Smith of The Athletic, concerned the state of the league’s finances. Bettman said the all-important hockey-related revenue (the figure that is intensely negotiated between players and owners every time the collective agreement expires) will be about $150 million less than its December projection of $5.3 billion.
This shortfall from the original projection may be the result of a variety of factors, but most likely has to do with the unforeseen attendance limits that many teams have faced this season. It was likely intended that teams would not have to return to reduced-capacity or zero-capacity crowds and that such restrictions were a thing of the past, an assumption that turned out to be premature. Many canadian clubs dealt with reduced attendance mandates, and given that the NHL is a primarily gate-focused league (meaning a higher share of revenue comes from ticket sales than other major North American sports leagues) , these restrictions could be responsible for the decline in total revenues.
Now, for some other information from Bettman’s meeting with the press:
- Although there have been discussions here and among members of the media about the NHL changing its playoff structure, it seems the league doesn’t have much of an appetite to pursue such a change. Asked about the possibility of making changes to the league’s playoff structure, Bettman responded with the following:
People always think, ‘What can we do differently to improve it?’ What we have is working really, really well. When you look at the number of games we get in the playoffs, (the excitement) in the first round and our competitive balance in the regular season, it’s extraordinary. I will oppose it to everything that happens in sport.
- After the sudden passing of longtime Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, much has been said about the future of his team and its owner. Asked about that future, Bettman decided to end all speculation about a quick change of ownership for the Senators. Bettman said, as relayed by Luke Fox of Sportsnetthat the Senators “are not for sale” and that there has been no discussion at any level about the possible sale of the team. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports that Senators management is currently reporting to the board that Melnyk put in place before his passing, and it is clear from Bettman’s comments that this arrangement is not one the league sees as a real need to change immediately .