Commissioner calls meeting 'routine'

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There were no dramatic conclusions to come out of the two-day meeting this week for the NHL Board of Governors.

Among the topics discussed were televisions rights, franchise updates and a look at how the new head shot rule designed to minimize the number of potentially dangerous concussions is working.

"It was a usual routine meeting for us as the December meeting typically is," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday at a press conference.

Bettman said the league is currently in a 90-day exclusive negotiation period with the Versus network that goes through the end of January, and then they will head into an exclusive negotiation period with NBC.

"In the final analysis, Versus and NBC have been terrific partners and over the last 5 years I don't think anybody could've been a better partner and given us better promotion and scheduling for what we need," he said.

"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. And that's having the most viewers on national cable with fewer households having the service than ESPN," he said.

The board approved Harley Hotchkiss' sale of his shares of the Calgary Flames to his current owner-partners of the team.

"This was part of estate planning for Harley, and he is someone who will remain active with the Calgary Flames and the League," Bettman said. "He's been involved with the Flames since they moved from Atlanta to Calgary."

Bettman also confirmed that a meeting with Matt Hulsizer, the potential future owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, went well.

"Matt met with the committee for about 45 minutes and there was a good, healthy exchange of dialogue," Bettman said. "And when we ultimately get to the point of going for league approval, where all the clubs will vote upon him and the transaction, it will carry the unanimous recommendation of the executive committee for his approval."

This season's new head shot rule, which eliminates what were once legal hits to the head from the blindside, received an initial thumbs up from the committee after early evaluation of the season.

"We had a candid discussion with how the rule is working and I think people in the room were comfortable it's working the way intended," Bettman said. "It will continue to evolve, it's a work in progress, but people were comfortable we're on the right track."

Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, said earlier Tuesday that the new head shot rule was showing signs of working.

"We want to keep hitting in hockey," Campbell said "But we've said time and time again, the concussions caused by that blindside hit was something we had to take a hard look at, and we did.

"We're one-third of the way through the seasons and we've had some suspensions, we've had some fines. There's more acceptance each time we make a presentation on this because it's about taking this hit out of the game and saving careers," he said.