Bettman’s reign equal parts incredible savvy and mind-boggling good luck

Ken Campbell
Gary Bettman (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

During one of the countless news conferences NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has held over the years, a reporter once suggested to Bettman that if a CEO of a major corporation had the same track record he did, that person would be shown the door. The NHL’s board of governors obviously doesn’t agree.

There is absolutely no doubt on this. Bettman signing a seven-year contract extension that will take him through the 2021-22 season and just past his 70th birthday is based entirely on merit. Regardless of what you think of Bettman, he has made his bosses very, very happy. And for the most part, very very rich, either in the present or when they sell and cash out. He has played a huge part in the NHL transforming itself from a ticket-driven business with about $400 million in yearly revenues to a $4 billion industry.

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Los Angeles awarded 2017 All-Star Game; NHL donates $200,000 to Denna Laing; and more

Matt Larkin
Luc Robitaille, Drew Doughty, Gary Bettman, Jonathan Quick, Darryl Sutter and Bill Daly. (Patrick McDermott / Getty Images Contributor)

It was a relatively uneventful press conference for NHL commissioner Gary Bettman Saturday in the hours leading up to the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Nashville. The league unveiled a new website, the 2017 All-Star Game host and a particularly special charity donation. Other than that, Bettman more or less played tennis with reporters on site, batting down questions about expansion and John Scott, among others.

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Calgary mayor should be applauded for staring down Gary Bettman

Ken Campbell
Scotiabank Saddledome (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

It’s easy to see why mayor Naheed Nenshi enjoys rock-star status in Calgary. It might have something to do with the fact that he’s all kinds of awesome. And after his reaction to the NHL’s scare tactics over providing funding for a new home for the Calgary Flames, the taxpayers of Calgary should be beating a path to his office and offering to take him out for lunch.

Nenshi stared down the one of the most powerful men in hockey Monday and did not blink. It wasn’t just that the man in question was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, that was just a bonus. But for the leader of a major North American metropolis to tell any professional sports league to shut its pie hole takes an enormous amount of guts.

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NHL to kill compensation for hiring away coaches, executives

Jared Clinton
Mike Babcock (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The NHL is getting rid of the compensation system that forces teams to surrender draft picks for hiring staff away from any of the league’s 29 other teams. The rule will be officially eliminated beginning Jan. 1, 2016, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported.

At the NHL’s board of governors meetings Tuesday, the league has decided to drop the compensation policy entirely. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the board of governors executive committee backed eliminating the compensation Monday.

There is one catch, though: those who have given up picks already, or who hired staff under the previous rules, will still be required to surrender those draft picks. Read more

Free agents rejoice: Salary cap could rise to $74.5 million in 2016-17

Jared Clinton
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

A number of GMs are going to be sleeping much easier if early projections are any indication of what’s to come for the salary cap.

News out of the board of governors meeting Monday was that the NHL could see the salary cap shoot up as much as $3 million for the 2016-17 season, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. The initial “ball park projection,” LeBrun reported, is that the cap could increase to $74.5 million in time for next season, which will have a number of GMs breathing a sigh of relief.

“We gave them a very, very, very rough projection on what the cap could conceivably be next season, which will be somewhere between where it is now and up $3 million, in that range,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “That will depend on a variety of factors.” Read more

NHL’s idea man, chief operating officer John Collins, steps down

Matt Larkin
John Collins. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hearing news of John Collins’ departure as NHL chief operating officer may not raise the eyebrow of every casual fan prepping a backyard rink. But it should. Especially since Collins, the league’s third in command, is the brain behind the Winter Classic.

Collins, who turns 54 this week, has been with the NHL since 2006. He took over as COO in 2008. He was the driving force for only the Winter Classic, but also the wildly successful HBO 24/7 series, which he shepherded along with producer Ross Greenburg. Collins is largely responsible for the Stadium Series and the league’s national television deals in Canada and the U.S. The league has grown significantly in popularity under his’ guidance.

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Will NWHL expand to more teams – and bigger salaries – in the near future?

Matt Larkin
Dani Ryan, NWHL commissioner and New York Riveters GM.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The NWHL is the newest pro hockey circuit on the block. But it sure is making up for lost time in a hurry.

It’s already North America’s first paid professional women’s hockey league. And, this week, it did something even the NHL took decades to do: publish complete salary breakdowns for every player and roster. We revealed the league’s 10 highest-paid players Monday. On Tuesday the NWHL published the full list with help from CapPro. You can peruse the one-year salaries here. They’re sortable by name, team, nationality and cap hit.

The social media reaction upon learning the salary numbers has ranged from optimistic, viewing the shift from no pay to at least $10,000 per player as a huge victory, and pessimistic, noting the athletes will still earn less than minimum wage.

Dani Rylan, the NWHL’s commissioner and founder, sees the glass as half full and perhaps even overflowing. After all, she points out, it’s a sixth-month season. Every player earns five figures and has another six months of the year to supplement that income.

“This is a great first step, and we would love to see it eventually get to a point where it can be a one-and-only job,” Rylan said. “But it is pretty special that a lot of players in the league will be making up to or over a thousand dollars per game, which is pretty remarkable.”

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And the highest-paid player in women’s hockey is…

Matt Larkin
Kelli Stack of the Connecticut Whale.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

The battle for women’s hockey supremacy has begun. The brand-new National Women’s League has commenced pre-season play, while the Canadian Women’s League just announced new branding tying its Toronto and Montreal franchises to their NHL counterparts.

The off-season divided the talent pool between the upstart NWHL, North America’s first paid professional women’s puck circuit, and the established CWHL, which has operated as the world’s top women’s league since its 2008 inception.

The first hurdle for the NWHL in establishing itself as legit competition for the CWHL was, of course, landing some big names. The NWHL has done that. Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker signed with the Boston Pride, Meghan Duggan with Buffalo Beauts, and so on. The next big summit: revealing exactly what its players stand to make. Will the NWHL athletes earn enough to sustain themselves full-time in Season 1?

It’s been common knowledge for several months the league would have a $270,000 salary cap per team, as the NWHL made that number public in March. A $270,000 cap for 18-player rosters averages out to $15,000 per player. But a source close to the league has revealed to THN some additional details about the breakdown. The top 10 highest-paid NWHLers, all on one-year deals:

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