Gary Bettman talks revenue, 'modest drop' in concussions

NEWARK, N.J. -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night and revealed that the NHL earned record revenues during the 2011-12 season, doing an estimated $3.3 billion in business.

Along with that, he also spoke extensively in his opening remarks about the level of competitive balance in the NHL, pointing to the fact that the league entered the final day of the regular season and still had as many as 27 possible combinations for first-round matchups in the playoffs. He also said that it became very clear that having every playoff game broadcast on national television "created an unprecedented level of interest" in the game.

The upcoming labor negotiations were a big topic of discussion, and Bettman said that his hope remains that constructive talks can begin soon, especially now that the NHLPA has informed the league that they are ready to start negotiating. He had little interest in going into much detail on the discussions themselves and brushed off the concern of another work stoppage as nothing more than speculation.

"I don't understand both the speculation and the degree of negativity that it connotes considering we, meaning the League and the Players' Association, have yet to have a substantive discussion on what we may each be looking for in Collective Bargaining," said Bettman. "If somebody is suggesting it, it's either because there's something in the water, people still have the NBA and NFL on the brain, or they're just looking for news on a slow day. It is nothing more than speculation at this point. There can't be any substance to it because there haven't been any substantive conversations."

He also -- once again -- talked about the job Brendan Shanahan has done with the department of player safety, pointing to a decreased level of concussions around the NHL "despite even more aggressive diagnosis and more conservative treatment." He would not give a number as to how many concussions there were, or how much they declined, but he called a "modest decline" and announced it's the first time in three years that's happened.

In response to that, NHL player agent Allan Walsh pointed out on Twitter that there were still over 100 concussions in the league this season, a figure that represents over 14 percent of the players.

When asked about the criticism Shanahan has received, Bettman had quite a bit to say.

"For as long as I've been doing this job, and I watched Brian Burke do it, I watched Colie Campbell do it, I've now watched Brendan Shanahan do it, there's never unanimous agreement on what is done from a supplemental standpoint," Bettman said. "I would suggest in this era of social media, where everybody has a platform and an opinion to express, the level of discourse has risen to new heights.

"My guess is also that with what we've done this year, what Brendan has done with the videos, his attempt to change the culture in terms of what's acceptable or not to be safer for the players, this has been turned into more of an event than we would like, because of the videos, among other things. I think that's OK in terms of the passion of our fans and who they root for and how they weigh in. I think it's been a good thing in terms of helping the players understand what is and isn't acceptable. This is a long-winded way of saying I think Brendan is doing a terrific job in what is perhaps the most difficult and thankless job we have."

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CBS Sports Writer

Adam Gretz has been writing about the NHL and taking an analytical approach to the game since the start of the 2008 season. A member of the PHWA since 2015, he has spent more than three years covering... Full Bio

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