The NHL web site has posted the transcript of Gary Bettman's remarks before the Wings/Stars game on 05/15/08.
In them we learn that at least one reporter had the ability to ask "a fascinating question" to which no clear answer was ever given, when queried if it is good for the league to have a dominating team like Detroit.
One wonders what the answer would have been if the current "dominating team" was a southern expansion team or an Eastern Conference team.
We also learn that Bettman doesn't see a problem with scheduling in the Detroit market that puts the Wings and the NBA Pistons playoff and finals on at the same nights and the same times because, "[t]he good news in Detroit is we're in different buildings."
This answer shows a complete disregard and lack of understanding of the Detroit market. Detroit is a sports town. It has been a given fact for some time that every year both the Pistons and the Wings will make it to the playoffs. In other words, having both teams in the playoffs is not some aberration that can't be anticipated, despite Bettman's remark that he doesn't want to "anoint" the Wings as either a dominating team or presumptive winners. Bettman came to the NHL from the NBA. Should we all believe he burned every bridge there and doesn't know enough movers and shakers in that organization to actually sit down at a table and mutually create playoff/television schedules that would benefit both?
Additionally, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch also own the Detroit Tigers. Although their season is just underway and the Tigers are struggling at the moment, all their games are televised, as well. In our household, we generally switch off the Versus intermission (which consists in great part, of ads for cage fighting) and click over to the Tigers. Or the Pistons, as the case may be.
The fans who go to the Palace for the Pistons games will still go, regardless of whether the Wings are playing. The fans who go to the Joe for the Wings will still go, regardless of whether the Pistons are playing. But many Michigan fans are active fans of BOTH teams. Thus, TV scheduling is a big problem. The last Pistons playoff game was literally won in the last seconds. The hockey is equally as exciting and the Michigan viewer who loves both the Wings and the Pistons now must choose. If one is going for the so-called casual hockey viewer, or those who only watch playoff games, what marketing advantage is it to fractionalize the television viewship if it can be avoided?
n.b. to Bettman: If hockey is not the number one fan team, DON'T force the fans to choose. They might choose something else.
According to Bettman, the much awaited (and prayed for) schedule change from 10 to 18 interconference games next season, and the ability of all teams to play each other at least once each season, was not something that was desired by "a majority" of fans but only "a substantial number" and "some clubs."
One can imagine that some Eastern Conference teams might object to having to take a jet rather than a bus to some of their games. Or to dip into the corporate pocket-book to spend more, but not even a fraction of the dollars Western Conference teams are forced to spend on extraordinary travel. Or actually experience even a miniscule increase in travel fatigue for the players. But, one also wonders where the data are that differentiate between "not a majority" of fans (exactly how many fans are there?) and "a substantial number."
Finally, Bettman was asked about his relationship with Brett Hull, whom the reporter characterized as being "an outspoken critic of the League."
Bettman is a lawyer. I'm not sure if his answer is nothing more than a bizarre non sequitur or a good example of res ipsa loquitur. He stated that the last time he chatted with Brett was when they "bumped into" one another in San Jose and he "kept him company" while Brett ate his sushi in the restaurant.
Notice that he did not say he broke bread with him.