As has become tradition before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media for his annual "State of the League" address.
Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly fielded questions across a multitude of topics ranging from the names of the new divisions, whether or not the Bettman will continue to present the Stanley Cup after yet another season-threatening work stoppage (he will, so be prepared to boo if you're in Chicago or Boston), Olympic participation in Sochi and ... of course ... the future of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Here's a quick roundup:
The Coyotes might not be in Arizona next year
The NHL has never been clear when it comes to the future of the Coyotes, but they're very obviously putting some heat on the City of Glendale, Ariz. in an attempt to hammer out a new lease deal with the new prospective owners of the Coyotes.
"It certainly means it's possible the team won't play there next year," said Daly. "We're in the short strokes in Phoenix right now. The ownership group we've negotiated a deal with has been negotiating with the City of Glendale. I think everybody kind of knows what's on the table. I think the puck is pretty much in the City of Glendale's end with respect to how they want to deal with that.
"There's a Board of Governors meeting on the 27th," said Bettman. "There's a City Council meeting on June 25. Stuff's going to happen. There are a number of [potential relocation] markets that have been expressing interest to us over the years. The phone keeps ringing more regularly the longer that the Coyotes situation stays unresolved. Based on the dates we just happened to talk about, it's causing the phone to ring even more."
Could we finally have a resolution before the end of the month? One can only hope.
Status quo on Olympic talks
The IIHF wanted a deal hammered out regarding the participation of NHL players in the 2014 Winter Olympics by the end of May. It's now the second week of June and there's no deal on the horizon, but the NHL is still hopeful something will get done. They're concerned still about what you'd expect -- the time difference between North America and Sochi, the location of the games and the league's ability to promote themselves through Olympic participation.
It's a little more complicated negotiation based on it being in Sochi," said Daly. "The IOC has been more actively involved than it has been in the past. The Players' Association has been actively involved with respect to logistics for players, families and guests. So we continue to work at it. I think the parties have been in close contact in recent days, and we hope to get together and get it hammered out in the near future."
"On some issues that have been of concern to us," added Bettman. "I think we've made some progress on them. If you were keeping score, the Players' Association probably at this point has more open issues than we do, but we're not done, and we're doing this together. So until it's all done, it isn't done."
League owners do not like taking two weeks off mid-season for a tournament where their star players will risk injury. They need to see some sort of return, and that's the snag in talks. It's still expected they'll make a deal before long.
New division names, 2013-14 schedule coming in July
Both the Olympic uncertainty and the Coyotes uncertainty mean we'll see the 2013-14 schedule a bit later than usual. It's expected to be released in July as opposed to late June as usual, and it's also expected that the new division names coming with realignment will be announced then as well.
"That schedule is going to be a little bit later than it has been in prior years," said Daly. "That's a function of a shortened season this year. It's a function of the Olympic process, negotiation we're going through, a function a little bit of Phoenix. I expect the schedule sometime in July."
"We've decided on names and all those things," said Bettman. "At some point probably after the Stanley Cup Final is over, at or around or slightly before announcing the schedule, we'll answer that question."
Concussions down on per game basis
"On a per-game basis, concussions were down slightly, so the work that the concussion working group is doing, which is a joint effort with the Players' Association and the league, our physicians, our trainers, is to continue to educate, monitor, make sure appropriate decisions are being made for diagnosis and treatment. This is an ongoing effort. Medical science is continuing to evolve because nobody has all the answers yet. But this is an area that we think is vitally important, and we're devoting a great deal of energy and resources to dealing with."
More international play?
Bettman was asked about the potential the league could bring back the old World Cup of Hockey as a regular offseason event. Without much extra prompt, Bettman said that it's all based on the Olympic outcome, but that a World Cup is again a possibility, that World Championship participation is up in the air, NHL Premiere games in Europe are still uncertain and perhaps most intriguingly, that NHL champions could play European champions in a series.
We're going to take a look at World Championship participation. Again, this is jointly with the Players' Association. We are very much committed, at least at 10,000 feet, to bringing back a World Cup and doing it on a regular basis. Once we get the Olympics figured out, we'll start working on a long-term Olympic, World Cup and World Championship international competition calendar.
We might involve in that calendar what we do with Premiere games, whether or not we have exhibition games, play European champions. These are all things that we're intrigued by, excited about, think are great opportunities for hockey worldwide.