NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the gathered media at the NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis this evening, speaking on a variety of topics. The long-time leader of the league had plenty to say, including confirming a 2021 All-Star weekend hosted by the Florida Panthers and introducing the league’s All-Decade teams. Here are some notes on other topics that Bettman touched on:
- Player and puck tracking will become a reality in the NHL in the not too distant future. Bettman announced that the tracking technology will be available in all 16 arenas for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and is likely to be operational in every NHL arena for the start of the 2020-21 season. The tracking data will allow for more accurate and polished statistics and game scoring, as well allowing for new stats and data visualizations that will further advance hockey analytics.
- The question of which arenas will have tracking this spring will depend on how the rest of the season plays out. However, one team is already being forced to focus on where they might play should they make the playoffs. Bettman stated that a decision has not yet been made as to whether the New York Islanders will play their postseason games at the Nassau Coliseum, the preferred location of the team, or the Barclay’s center. Bettman called Nassau a “challenge” and that it is not a major league facility, which would cause problems if the Islanders made a deep playoff run. Bettman also acknowledged that a request has been made for New York to play all of their home games at Nassau Coliseum next season, but believes it is too early to make that decision.
- One thing it is not too early for is continuing CBA talks. Bettman said that the league is expecting to go resume negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHLPA soon, after enough progress was made back in September that both sides decided not to use their opt-out clauses. There is plenty of time before the current CBA expires in 2022, but Bettman and company are eager to build on positive talks and get a new deal in place.
- A bargaining issue that the NHL continues to hold firm on is Olympic participation. Bettman noted today that the league’s opinion that attending the Games is “extraordinarily disruptive” has not changed. He acknowledged that the players’ association would like to return to the Olympics, but that the league is comfortable without participating in Beijing in 2022. Bettman has not completely closed the door on the idea, but does not want to spread “false hope”. He added that the league will make a decision on their own time and will not abide by any deadline provided by the IIHF.
- Another major league change that has the support of many, but not the NHL itself, is a change to the current playoff format. Bettman revealed that there have been no talks of altering the current postseason structure, even in a season with drastic competitive balance differences between divisions. The upcoming addition of the Seattle expansion team is not expected to change the playoff format either.