Gary Bettman is satisfied with the NHL's first Olympics. However, it's too early to determine if the league wants to do it again.
"We will evaluate the Olympics after the season is over," the NHL commissioner said Wednesday. ". . . We have to look at data and see how it impacted the season."Speaking the morning after the opener of the Stanley Cup finals, in which Detroit beat Washington 2-1, Bettman also addressed lower attendance, declining TV ratings, rules changes and concussions.
He was asked if the NHL was able to promote the league at the Olympics even with the U.S. and Canadian teams knocked out early.
"My personal rooting interest aside, we never went into the Olympics with those expectations," said Bettman, referring to a possible U.S.-Canada gold-medal game. "We went into the Olympics saying that any one of six teams could have won, and that's what happened."
The Czech Republic won the gold medal by beating Russia. The U.S. team won the displeasure of Olympic and NHL officials by trashing a dorm room after being eliminated from the tournament.
"There is a tendency to equate the U.S. team's performance with getting attention to our sport," Bettman said.
He also downplayed the drawbacks to an extended NHL season because of the Olympics. If the Detroit-Washington series goes seven games, the season will end June 23 - the first time the league will have played a season in fall, winter, spring and summer.
"We've always played in June, anyway," Bettman said. "There are certain realities to the schedule. The players get paid to play 82 games."
If the NHL decides to compete in the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, Bettman said the logistics would be far easier than those in Nagano, Japan.
"There would be less travel and less jet lag," he said.
He rejected the notion that there is a declining interest in the NHL.
"I don't think the game is on hard times," he said. "It just needs fine adjustments.'
As for lower TV ratings, Bettman said the league was still trying to find its way. The NHL has contracts with FOX and ESPN.
"TV ratings are down, but not as terrible as some think," he said. "We're working on finding our niche. The final score isn't ready to be tallied. I think we will continue to make more money on network TV."
Bettman also said he wasn't worried about a drop in attendance this season.
"You take away Carolina, which is a temporary situation, we were off 1 percent after two record years."