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News and notes from board of governors

12/7/2010

Commissioner Gary Bettman spent little time discussing the possibility that the salary cap could go up as much as $3 million next season, but he did take issue with the suggestion that if the cap does go up, it puts more pressure on small-market teams that struggle to get to the salary-cap floor.

"Actually if the salary cap goes up it means revenues are going up. It means revenue sharing goes up," he said at the conclusion of the NHL board of governors meetings in Florida on Tuesday. "You've got to look at the system in its totality. It’s a little premature for us to be worrying about those things."

Silence on Colin Campbell

Shocking as it may seem, apparently not one single NHL owner had any concerns about the head of NHL discipline, Colin Campbell, in spite of the recent spate of stories and columns referencing embarrassing internal e-mails sent by Campbell to league officials that, among other things, referred to Boston forward Marc Savard as a "little faker."

Bettman said the issue wasn't discussed by the board of governors during two days of meetings in Florida.

"This obviously seems to be a bigger issue outside that room than inside it because while it was going on the expressions of support for him were constant, universal and unqualified," Bettman said. "But it didn't come up in this meeting."

European adventure

The NHL continued to debate how its European adventure will look moving forward. This fall six NHL teams opened the regular season in Europe -- the most ever. Bettman said the league is still working through what will happen next fall in terms of which teams will be asked to go and how many wlil be sent.

"We're actually working on that. We've got some work to do yet. I don't want to announce anything but our hope is to be going back with some more premier games next year," Bettman said.

He would not say whether he favors the six-team model or the four-team version that had been the case the previous two years.

"That's one of the things we're evaluating. I thought we had a pretty good presence last year and a pretty good number in six teams. Worked well, got a lot of attention, the teams liked it but that's what we're in the process of vetting right now," Bettman said.

It's believed the planning framework is to return six teams next year with the possibility of having regular-season games in Russia -- either in Moscow or St. Petersburg -- for the first time ever.

Television contracts

The NHL's American television contracts expire at the end of this season and the league is currently in a 90-day period of exclusive negotiations with Versus, its cable provider in the United States. A similar period of exclusivity will follow with NBC, its over-the-air provider.

"We're also awaiting what approvals are finally issued on the NBC/Universal/Comcast merger because I think that will move things along if and when that happens. Hopefully it won't be if it'll just be when," Bettman said.

The commissioner was asked about the possibility that the league would return to ESPN and whether that would benefit the game.

"We can all have a good debate as to whether or not that's the case. But in the final analysis, Versus and NBC have been terrific partners and over the last 5½ years, I don't think anybody could have been a better partner and given us better promotion and scheduling and frankly if you go back to last year's playoffs, the first two rounds were the most viewed on cable since they started doing these ratings I think in 1994," Bettman said.

The commissioner did say he felt the league was in a different place than when it was coming out of the lockout.

"What's different is we're a much more significant player in the media landscape than we've been for a whole host of reasons," Bettman said. "I think there's interest in us more than there's ever been and that's a good thing."

Fleury's recovery

There is so much attention surrounding Pittsburgh now with the play of Sidney Crosby (he has recorded points in 16 straight games) and the Penguins' 10-game winning streak. Throw in the upcoming Winter Classic and the HBO programming leading up to that game and it's possible to overlook the dramatic recovery of netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.

The good-natured Fleury endured a rocky start to the season and, coupled with a less than stellar playoff last spring, there was some discussion about whether he'd lost his confidence for good.

Not so, apparently, as Fleury has been terrific over the past month or so.

"My message was you have to play your way through it. What fans really don't see with him is how much he cares and how competitive he is," Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero said. "He has that [happy-go-lucky] demeanor, but he is very competitive.

"From a management standpoint and a coaching standpoint, we never doubted he would. It was just a matter of when," the GM added.

Fleury has won nine straight and 11 of 12.

"He has too much talent. He cares too much. He works too hard at his craft to fall apart," Shero said.

Plus, what was the alternative given that Fleury is signed through the end of the 2014-15 season.

"At the end of the story was if it didn't change, what was I going to do?" Shero quipped. "You aren't going to be able to trade him so I'm stuck. So Marc, could you please play good. That was me to him. Sent him a text, 'Love you. [He's laughing]. I know you can, you've done it before.'"

One factor Shero cited in Fleury getting back in a groove was the play of veteran backup Brent Johnson, who held the fort during Fleury's inconsistent play.

"The way Johnson was playing the first month really bought [Fleury] time to find his game, to work with Gilles Meloche in practice and really work on his technique video. If Brent was struggling we would have been in a lot of trouble. Luckily, his play allowed us to keep our head above water," Shero said.

Devils' changes not imminent

If New Jersey Devils president and GM Lou Lamoriello is going to pull the plug on head coach John MacLean, it doesn't look like such a move will be imminent. At least that was the message Lamoriello repeated Tuesday at the conclusion of the NHL board of governors meetings in Florida.

Although the Devils lost their third straight Monday night to Pittsburgh and sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and own the second-worst record in the NHL at 8-17-2, Lamoriello said no changes are planned.

"Well, right now we're going to stay the course," Lamoriello said.

Lamoriello has insisted throughout the Devils' terrible start that he has confidence in MacLean, who is in his first season as an NHL head coach, and the rest of the coaching staff.

Road to the Winter Classic

The board of governors got a look at a preview of the HBO project "24/7 Road To The Winter Classic" that will take viewers behind the scenes as the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins prepare for their Jan. 1 outdoor game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Apparently they liked what they saw.

"The governors gave it an ovation. They started clapping when it was over," Bettman said.

"Even though there were 28 teams that weren't Pittsburgh or Washington [represented in the meeting], they appreciated how good this could be for the game because hockey fans and sports fans are going to get an insight and a connection to our game that most sports don't get," the commissioner added.

"This is truly special. This is perhaps unprecedented, particularly in the regular season, for any sports. People were extraordinarily pleased with the trailer and from what we hear the trailer isn't anywhere as good as the real show will be. People are real excited about it."

Shero said he thinks star captain Crosby will be a natural for the production, even though Crosby is a stickler for detail and routine and having cameras around nonstop in the days leading up to the Winter Classic will definitely be something out of the ordinary.

"When you see him in the locker room, that's his element. Most people see him after a game getting interviewed on the ice or between periods," Shero said. "He has a great sense of humor. He's a good kid. He's good with his teammates. That's his comfort level, right there in the locker room with the guys, or on the road, on the plane, on the bus. He has a great personality and hopefully it does come out."