Transcript: Gary Bettman on Sens ownership, NYC meeting and team’s relationship with local government

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman appeared on Ottawa radio station TSN 1200 AM Tuesday and discussed a wide range of topics pertaining to the Ottawa Senators and the market they play in.

Transcript: Gary Bettman on Sens ownership, NYC meeting and team’s relationship with local government
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman smiles at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday, Nov.26, 2013. Rogers Communications wrested control of NHL multimedia rights with a blockbuster 12-year, $5.2-billion agreement that will preserve "Hockey Night in Canada" but limit CBC's role in the iconic broadcast. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman appeared on Ottawa radio station TSN 1200 AM Tuesday and discussed a wide range of topics pertaining to the Ottawa Senators and the market they play in.

Here’s a what Bettman had to say (I have bolded some lines of particular interest)…

On the meeting he had Monday with Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray

“You know, it’s fascinating to me. Yesterday was Martin Luther King’s birthday, which is a national holiday in the United States, and our offices were closed, but I and Bill Daly had a lot of pre-scheduled meetings and one meeting that only got recently scheduled, Mr. Tortorella’s visit to us. The meeting with Mr. Melnyk was scheduled in advance. I don’t make it a practice of disclosing what took place in a meeting that I have with a club or club ownership and since anybody who has written wasn’t at the meeting and doesn’t know what transpired, it’s pure speculation – and by the way, I did see an article that said Don Fehr was at that meeting and he wasn’t. Interestingly enough, and I guess this is what happens when the media stakes out your offices, and they did that to see Tortorella, Don Fehr was in my office also. All the meetings I had yesterday were unrelated, so to the extent that people are suggesting things did or didn’t happen, they didn’t know, and as I said, when I’m conducting league business and having business meetings, I don’t make it a practice of telling the world what I’m doing on a moment-by-moment basis. It’s no different than if I ask you about your last producers meeting,w hat your last review was like and what stories you should and shouldn’t be covering. You know?

(Ian Mendes asks if these types of GM and ownership meetings happen often and Bettman says “all the time.”)

On outdoor games, the business, small market franchises, etc.

“We’re in a good place. The game on the ice has never been better, competitive balance is spectacular, the business of the game is strong, the fans are connecting with the game in record numbers, either by watching on television or using digital technology or going to games. Listen a year ago, we came out of what was an unfortunate and difficult time, but it’s always important that a sports league has the right economic system so that teams can be competitive, that they can be economically stable so that we can have franchises in a variety of markets that are not only just big markets, so Ottawa can be competitive and be in this league, which is important to us. And so making sure that the economic system was right is something that we had to do because if we didn’t have the right economic system, well we might have been playing games, that might have been short-lived because we would have been in turmoil and crises. And the best evidence of what came out of all that is the fact that our three so-called troubled franchises got sold over the summer in about a six-week period. You look at the new national television deal we have with Canada, you look at the success of the outdoor game on Jan. 1. We’ve come back strong. The final analysis, well we can try to put building blocks in place to ensure we’re strong, our strength really comes from the game and our fans.

On Eugene Melnyk claiming to have lost $110 million on the Senators

“First of all, if any club loses money, and I’m not going to confirm or deny whether or not the Ottawa Senators did because that’s something only ownership should do, but that goes to the point of while work stoppages are painful, if we want to make sure that there’s a team in Ottawa, we have to make sure there’s the right economic system that the team can be stable economically and the team can be competitive, because that’s what the fans want. So whether or not it was the Ottawa Senators or a bunch of other franchises, when we couldn’t make a deal on a timely basis, the choice is we’ll say forget it, let’s just play and the franchises that will fail will fail, or you’ve got to say, ‘listen union, we’ve got to have a system that works for everybody so that the league can be strong and can grow. And so, I never want to go through a work stoppage, I hate them, everybody does, but you have to look at what you come out of from on the other end. We think it’s important to have a franchise in the nation’s capital and therefore we have to make sure that there’s good strong ownership, which there is, and that there’s a system that makes sense.”

On relationships between teams and local government

“We get involved when we’re asked to and we think we can be helpful. I think there’s always a compelling case, from a purely economic standpoint, putting aside the psyche of the community and how fans view sports as important and something that brings a community together, but the fact is a sports team and an arena is an economic engine, Ottawa is blessed with that fact that Eugene Melnyk owns the building that was privately built. If you remember back when it was initially built, the initial construction included the private financing for an exit ramp from the highway, so, you know, there needs to be a mutuality, a partnership if you will, between local government and an arena which is really infrastructure that the public uses. And if it would have been helpful to build something near the arena and help make the arena stronger, I’m hoping local government would take a good strong look at it and make a sensible decision.”

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