Thursday, October 20, 2005

Gary spreads his Gospel

Gary Bettman took to the stage in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon to spread the good word, his NHL is back and better than ever. Now of course one wouldn't expect the Commissioner to say otherwise, but for the first time in years there weren't many people questioning his rose colored glasses, nor his rah rah approach to the good old hockey game.

With a debut couple of weeks full of scoring, tight finishes and fast action on the ice, the new NHL has delivered as advertised a more enjoyable brand of the game than what we were used to. As Bettman put it, "For the first time in a long time, the NHL has momentum".

His state of the game address to the Sports media Canada luncheon highlighted a number of exciting changes to the game that have provided it with more speed and scoring. Bettman credited the number of rule changes implemented to the new and improved brand of hockey. Cutting down on fighting and stickwork has had a liberating effect on the skill players, giving them more room to roam and more opportunities to put points on the board. A situation that has many hockey fans welcoming the firewagon approach to the game that has developed.

Bettman did not dwell to long on some of the low attendance reports from some NHL cities, stating that the league is playing to 93% capacity two weeks into the season, not bad he says for a league that had shut down for an entire season. He suggested that those that were questioning the trouble spots, were looking for a negative story that isn't there. A flash of the old combative Gary that was, but he quickly turned back to the fast pace and high scoring and suggested the fans will come back as the word spreads.

While the game in Canada has found it's home back on television both TSN and CBC have welcomed back their audiences and to fairly decent ratings, the same can't be said about the US television package on OLN which faced tough competition from football and baseball , which did not exactly set any records in the first two weeks of broadcasting. Not to mention some serious distribution problems in Gary's own hometown.

But in Gary's frame of mind that would probably be a debate for another day, right now he's only interested in the positives, a faster game with lots of offence and lots of excitement. So far so good, lets hope he still has some good news to update us on in six months or so!

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