DENVER — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league will post record revenues of more than $5.2 billion this season. And this sum can be conservative.
Appearing in court Wednesday with Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bettman commended the league and its partners overall for completing the first 82-game regular season in two years. This laid the foundation for a much-needed financial recovery.
“What we did is we did it [continued to operate], we laid the foundations of our business,” said Bettman. “We have had a significant increase in our national media revenue in the United States. Our buildings are basically back where they were [with attendance], and maybe a little bit better. Our playoffs this year, the first two rounds, generated 88% of the revenue we made in the first two rounds when we last had normal playoffs [in 2019]. We have continued to play NHL hockey through the most difficult times. … We were able to stabilize the business and pull it through.”
Bettman expects the NHL to continue booming. He announced a start date for next season on October 11 and said the full 2022-23 schedule would be revealed in early July.
“We expect revenue to continue to grow at a healthy pace,” Bettman said. “My forecast is two, maybe three years [for paying off our debts]. I can’t really do a good job of projecting next year or the year after until we have that year settled. But things are very strong and very solid.”
The commissioner said he believed higher league scoring was linked to higher earnings this season.
“I think it has to do with the increased interest in the game,” Bettman said. “Everything we do is only important to the extent that the game on the ice is healthy. And the game is healthy on the ice season, and it’s giving us playoffs that are as unpredictable as anything can be said.”
In addition to the league’s positive results, Bettman and Daly addressed recent lows. Most urgent was the NHL’s response to a woman’s recently settled lawsuit against Hockey Canada in 2018.
Late last month, the NHL vowed to investigate the details behind the young woman’s claim that she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League players, including some members of Hockey Canada’s World Junior Team. TSN was the first to report the lawsuit and that a dismissal was filed with the Ontario Supreme Court in May.
The NHL released a statement calling the alleged conduct “both despicable and reprehensible,” and Daly confirmed the league’s investigation is ongoing.
“We’re on our way,” Daly said. “We have been in contact with the players’ association. They have been cooperative up to this point in facilitating and arranging interviews with each of the players and we expect to be able to interview any of the players on this team. And we’ve also been in touch with Hockey Canada.”
Bettman said the NHL was not aware of any allegations when they surfaced.
“[We knew] right when we found out about the lawsuit,” he said.
The NHL continues to resolve its case with Evander Kane. The NHL Players’ Association filed a complaint on Kane’s behalf in January after he was placed on unconditional waivers by the San Jose Sharks for breach of contract and violating COVID-19 protocols.
Kane was in the fourth season of a seven-year, $49 million contract and would lose approximately $22.9 million if his contract ended. He is a pending unrestricted free agent, having spent the second half of last season with the Edmonton Oilers.
A resolution to Kane’s issue has been delayed due to scheduling conflicts with the case’s arbitrator and may not be reached before free agency opens on July 13.
“[The arbitrator] is unfortunately not available for us in June,” said Daly. “So we have to work on some dates in early summer. We are currently in talks with the Players’ Association as to what this all means in terms of Evander’s status. I have no basis to really say that [when the case will end]. If it gets to the second day of the hearing and we await a decision from the arbitrator asking for a written award, I think that will be the free-rule date.
By then, the NHL will have crowned a cup winner. But Daly also confirmed that given the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, no Russian-born player will be allowed to take home the hockey cup.
“We have already made it clear to both clubs with a view to this summer that the trophy is not going to Russia or Belarus,” said Daly. “Maybe we owe a cup trip in the future, just like we did with the pandemic. But that’s not happening this summer.”