An Interview with Gary Bettman and Bill Daly

Q. Gary, In terms of officiating or video review changes, is there a way you can describe what that’s going to look like? Is it just going to be the GMs talking about it? Are you going to do something different to bring all of the stakeholders together to drill down on how to avoid what happened at various points this spring?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think what we have to do is make sure we have feedback from all the constituent groups, both in terms of soliciting ideas and ultimately whatever conclusion we reach to make sure everybody buys into it.

Ultimately, when you look at everything that we’ve done in video replay over the last couple of decades, it started with Colie Campbell and Hockey Operations. They understand the issues.

We all understand the issues at the league office. We know what works. We know what doesn’t work. We understand the challenges in implementation. We’re going to use that body of knowledge, share it with everybody, take as much feedback as we can from everyone.

Q. In terms of what kind of process that review might look like, how concerned are you about slowing down the game as part of that?


Q. Are there multiple different ways of doing it, whether it’s Colie Campbell calling someone upstairs or the officials on the ice?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Let’s back up a little bit. If you remember the implementation of goaltender interference, the first two-thirds of the first season, there were lots of complaints, not just this group, but from the clubs. The consensus overwhelmingly from the managers was that they wanted it called out of Toronto where you’re seeing every game every night.

Consistency is going to be as important as anything else. We understand from the track record what the issues are and where the problems can be in implementation.

Q. Can you bring us up to date on the communications you’ve had with the NHLPA regarding the opt-out in September, the potential for an extension of the CBA, where you feel that is right now?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER DALY: We’ve engaged in a number of discussions and meetings with the Players’ Association. They’re ongoing. We both recognize what’s at stake come September in terms of each of us having unilateral right to shorten the agreement, have it expire in 2020 as opposed to 2022. Nothing much to update other than the fact that we expect to continue to have discussions over the summer.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I also would like to add that when you think about where the game is and the state of the business of the game, how it’s grown, there’s a lot to be said for labor peace. That’s something we’re very focused on.

If you asked the Players’ Association, and Don is here, he could list 10 or 15 things he’d like to change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We could do the same thing. Ultimately this is going to come down to what’s most important.

Q. As the league explores getting involved in women’s hockey in a more formal way, have you had any discussions about helping facilitate exhibitions for the 200 women that are playing this year?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: At this point in time we’re letting the dust settle in terms of what’s ultimately going to happen with the remaining existing league; we’ve heard talk of the possibility of another league being formed.

Having said that, our clubs have been involved on a one-off basis helping with training facilities, ice, equipment. We were involved in creating the tour a few months ago with the U.S. and Canadian women’s teams playing. We had a number of players involved in All-Star. That’s something we’ll continue to do on a one-off basis because we’re very supportive of the women’s game.

Whether or not it’s appropriate for us to get involved with the league, at least starting our own league is something that not everybody agrees on from afar. It’s not anything we’ve focused on yet.

Q. Given that you acknowledge video reviews are a blessing and a curse, do you anticipate there will be any consideration to perhaps reducing what can be reviewed?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: That’s a really good question. It’s actually come up in prior general managers meetings.

Whatever your view is of video replay, I think the way we’re doing it now, at least for what we’re doing, is working well, and I don’t think you can go backwards anymore. I think that ship has sailed.

Frankly, we want to get it right. But, again, defining what the ‘it’ is. How far do you roll back? What actually affects the ultimate result that’s either called or not called, whether or not that resulted in a goal?

It’s not as simple as saying, Just review everything. The essential excitement, the flow of our game would be inalterably interrupted if we reviewed everything. It’s just not possible.

As a starting point, you can’t make penalty calls that haven’t been made two minutes earlier. Everybody has an opinion on this, and I respect that. We want lots of input. But it’s not as easy as it looks.

Q. Bill, we’ve seen at least one significant injury these Playoffs with a player being pushed from behind into the boards. Could you envision a scenario this summer where that comes up in conversation or perhaps a rule change to strengthen the call or have it called more consistently?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER DALY: It’s certainly something that’s been discussed before at the general manager level. George Parros and his team do a great job in trying to enforce the rules the way the general managers want them enforced.

It’s an issue that comes up from time to time and is discussed and monitored. It happened a couple times during the Playoffs obviously. I expect it may be on the Competition Committee agenda, it may be on the general managers’ agenda. There may be a change in enforcement.

I think the rules are in the book that would allow for proper calls to be made on the ice.

Q. What is the latest on the China games locations in the fall? Are there plans for expanding your office in Beijing?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER DALY: I think where we are currently is that we are going to forego having pre-season games in China for next Fall. That doesn’t mean we’re slowing down any kind of Chinese strategy. The reason for that has to do with the 70th anniversary of the rise to power of the communist party and Mao Zedong, our inability to book appropriate arrangements in arenas and cities because of that celebration at that time of the year.

We’re going to use a phrase that I think the Devils use: We’re going to double down on our efforts in China. We’re going to really ramp up our presence there, hopefully including over this summer with player visits, with league visits, Players’ Association visits and the like.

We’re going to continue to invest in grassroots, in school programs, so youth hockey, continue to fuel the growth of youth hockey in China.

Hopefully, we’ll be in a position to announce games for the following year much sooner than we have been able to do in the past, which should help with the promotion of those games.

Again, I think we passed on the Fall of 2019, but we expect to be there in the Fall of 2020.

Q. I understand the replay is a can of worms here, you’re trying to get it right. Personally for you there’s so much discussion with the missed hand pass in the Western Conference Finals. What did you think when you saw it? How would you like to see that handled in the future?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: What I thought was it would be good if I kept my head from exploding (laughter).

I was unhappy. We all were. If you ask the officials on the ice, they were unhappy. If you ask Stephen Walkom, he was unhappy. If you ask Colie Campbell and Hockey Operations, they were unhappy. We were all unhappy.

Unfortunately, there have been occasions in our history where deciding plays were either off-side, which is one of the reasons we have replay for that, and it was unfortunate, to say the least. It was clearly a missed call. It led to a goal.

Whether or not they had whistled it down, who would have ultimately won the game, we’ll never know. But you don’t ever want to see a game decided like that.

Whenever in the Playoffs we have an overtime game, and Colie Campbell and I frequently will chat before the overtime starts, the thing we say is, ‘we just hope it’s a clean goal’.

Q. Is there something you would like to see moving forward?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Again, that goes into how you fix it. What if the hand pass happened a minute earlier? Four or five other people touch the puck, or it cleared the zone, or…

You can roll it back endlessly. Again, we’re going to have to come up with something if we decide to extend replay that defines it in a way that we cannot ruin the game but get it right.

Q. You mentioned your commitment to trying to grow the game. Rene Fasel said over the weekend was quoted from a Russian reporter saying he’d like to suggest to you sometime that September 2019 might be a deadline for an Olympic decision.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think he said 2020.

Q. That would be a deadline.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: He hasn’t communicated that to us.

Q. Where are you on Olympic participation?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Nowhere different than we’ve been. If the International Ice Hockey Federation chooses to set a deadline, they’ll set a deadline and we’ll deal with it as appropriate.

Q. If you think back, the last time the Stanley Cup had Boston in it, you were coming off the lockout. How much has the league progressed in your eyes? How great do you feel compared to then?

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER DALY: I think we’ve come a long way, as we have really over the course of decades. I think the league is in a bigger, better, stronger place. That starts with the product on the ice.

Players have never been better. The skill has been never more apparent. The balance in the league has never been better. Very compelling entertainment product and that’s what you want. We’re really pleased with where we are.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: As I said in my opening remarks, we’ve never been stronger on or off the ice.

We don’t like work stoppages. As I indicated before, labor peace is important. Every now and then I see some commentary that talks about, for example, the ‘damage after the year off’. It’s what I euphemistically call the year-long lockout.

People tend to forget that we came back after that year off to record attendance, ratings and reviews. That’s a testament to the passion our fans have for the game, a testament to the strength of the game. It’s not anything we take for granted.

The point that I’m making is, if you find yourself in a dispute, and then ultimately use that time to fix fundamental problems, which we believe we did, then you move forward stronger than you were. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Having said all that, we prefer labor peace at this point.