Commissioner Gary Bettman addresses Blackhawks scandal, refereeing, 2021-22 NHL season



NHL commissioner Gary Bettman held his annual pre-Stanley Cup Final news conference Monday in advance of Game 1 between the Lightning and Canadiens.

He spoke on a number of topics, including allegations of sexual assault in the Blackhawks organization; he said the league only learned of the allegations against former Blackhawks coach Brad Aldrich recently. Citing it is a “matter of litigation,” he said the NHL would wait for the findings of the independent investigation but said that the league could assess punishment to individuals or the club.

“All options are available if there’s something that warrants punishment,” he said. “What we know is what’s based on what’s public. And that’s why we’re going to be interested to see, what the investigation reveals and doesn’t reveal. I think everyone needs to not get ahead of themselves. These are allegations. … When we get all the information, we will do what is necessary and appropriate.”

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Bettman, unprompted, also addressed the recent rumblings about officiating in postseason games.

“Let’s be clear. Our officials are not only the best hockey officials in the world, they are the best officials in any sport,” he said. “Our officials have the hardest game to officiate because no sport comes close to matching the speed and split-second reaction time required to make or not make hundreds of calls in real-time.

“Yes, our officials miss calls, not as many as some suggest, but they occasionally miss calls, just as coaches and players make mistakes, officials do on occasion, as well. We don’t like it when it happens. In fact, we hate it, but it is the nature of the human element of calling our game. … As an official, you work well, you continue to work. You don’t work well, then you don’t work.”

The commissioner also spoke on a number of other topics. Sporting News has all the information below:

What are key dates, info for the upcoming 2021-22 NHL season?

The NHL will release the schedule for next season sometime between now and the draft, scheduled for July 23-24. While the overall look is TBD, there are a few things that are known as of today:

  • The Winter Classic is back. Scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 1, the Minnesota Wild will host the St. Louis Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis.
  • The 2022 All-Star Game and the weekend of festivities will be held in Las Vegas.
  • The Predators will host the Lightning in the 2022 Stadium Series at the NFL’s Nissan Stadium on Feb. 26, 2022.
  • The NHL is planning a Heritage Classic in Canada in the 2021-22 season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted after the presser that next year’s draft will be held in Montreal.

Will NHL players compete at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing?

“We don’t know as of right now,” said Bettman, stressing that time is of the essence.

According to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who attended the news conference with Bettman, the issues that remain are the “games being halfway around the world” and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Having said that, we negotiated in good faith with the players association last summer,” he added. “We agreed that if the conditions were right and we could reach agreement on all the material issues, that we would commit and support going to the Olympics.”

Will teams get compliance buyouts with it being a flat cap in 2021-22?

The flat answer is most likely no. A lot of what has gone on in recent history, per Bettman, was due to the lack of revenue.

“We believe that what we have in place is designed to right-size our economics and recapture the overpayments that we made,” he said. So, what we have in place and agreed to with the players association, I don’t envision changing.”

Are helmet sponsors here to stay?

Yep. But, Bettman noted there will not be advertising on uniforms for the upcoming season.

Will there be more transparency with injuries, lineups and starting goalies as sports betting grows?

According to a report from Daly, that’s a no. He said sports betting partners have not asked for any changes to current NHL policies.

“At the end of the day, we have to have policies that facilitate the game on the ice (which) is what’s most important,” he said.





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