It's hockey season!

Hockey

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: In case you haven't noticed, it's hockey season again. Yes, the last season just ended in late June, but at least there was a season. Two years ago, a lockout killed the entire schedule. Last year, the NHL had record attendance and revenue though. Fans went right back to the game. But compared to other sports leagues, the NHL still has a small fan base. We caught up with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. I asked him, so now what?

GARY BETTMAN: The big thing about last year was as great as everyone coming back and as well as we were received by the media and the business community, there was always the level of skepticism. How would we relaunch? Would we be able to come back? I think with all of that behind us, there's no longer a need to look back at the lockout at the relaunch. I think for the first time in a very, very long time, we now have the opportunity to just look forward and look to a bright future and I think that's exciting for the game and for our fans.

JAGOW: Well I've read that you've started a new thing where one player for each team will be on a committee to have some input about marketing the league. Why did you do that and what's the goal with that?

BETTMAN: Actually that was an effort spearheaded by the player's association who for a very long time, too long, was adversarial in everything that we were trying to do for the game. But now that we're partners in this new economic system, the players feel vested and invested in the game and they wanted to make sure when it came to marketing and promoting the game, that we were getting the support we were needing from the players at the club level and making sure that the players on an individual basis are doing the types of things that will help reach out to the fans, reach out to the business community and help grow the game.

JAGOW: The NHL doesn't have the same exposure, television-wise, that the other sports leagues do. Is there something about the game that makes it less suitable for TV?

BETTMAN: I think our exposure, your point is right, with respect to some national coverage which has been improving. But probably the thing that will impact us over time the greatest, particularly as there's more of a mass market, is high-definition television. Because in addition to greater clarity, and people who aren't familiar with the game say it's hard to watch on TV because you can't see the puck. Not really true when you understand the game, but HDTV does remedy that problem. But perhaps most importantly is the wide-aspect ratio. What that means is HDTV is more horizontal than traditional television and our game is very, very fast played horizontally. And while HDTV probably makes the television viewing for everything more enjoyable and better, the biggest impact probably on anything — movies, sports, anything — is probably on hockey because of the way you can now see the game.

JAGOW: Alright Gary, thanks a lot.

BETTMAN: Hey great to be with you.

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